You are lying down in an alleyway with your back against the brick wall of the local fast food restaurant. You do not have a sort of possessions except the rugged clothes on you and the almost-empty 1.75 liter bottle of Bacardi white rum resting in your right hand. Your mind is just one big swirl, and you decide to chug the last few sips down because you have nothing else better to do. You ask yourself, “how did I end up here?” Then, it all comes back. “If only I didn’t listen to my teammates telling me to drink that beer at the graduation party. Then I wouldn’t have been arrested and kicked out of college.”
The reason for the downfall of this simulation is a common issue that many Americans ranging from the early years of high school all the way to the later years of collegiate students: peer pressure. Many students going through these years have experienced peer pressure, but they do not recall being forced to do anything. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of these said students going through this terrible process and take a look at what peer pressure actually is, the causes and effects of peer pressure concerning alcohol towards these students, and how to resist the urge to conform to this overall horribly persuasive period.
What is peer pressure? It is simply thought of as the influence of a social group on an individual. The overall concept of peer pressure can determine what kind of music one listens to, how he or she dresses, and even what activities he or she partake in (Health of Children). Peer pressure can be found throughout many different types of groups, such as older or younger kids, parents, and teachers.
However, the most common group that creates the most dangerous area of peer pressure comes from people that are the same age as the so-called “victim.” Not only can one’s social group or authoritative figures bring about peer pressure, but the environment in which one is raised in can trigger a particular situation for peer pressure to arise. Knowing about peer pressure and understanding the sources in which it can occur may help others realize the situations where peer pressure happens in the students’ lives.
One main environmental source to look at when dealing with peer pressure can be a hierarchical group that the student attends school with. This can just be considered as the “popular” group that the student wants to be a part of.
So, he or she will want to do anything possible to be amongst this elite group, and this said group may take advantage of the situation and make the person do what they want, such as consume alcohol. As stated in Holly Karakos’s article “Positive Peer Support or Negative Peer Influence? The Role of Peers Among Adolescents in Recovery High Schools,” she states that “peers are often highly influential in convincing one another to try alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs for the first time.” This case can occur because of one central idea that most students have dealt with in their lives: fitting in with the crowd. This example is a common belief throughout a most of high schoolers that want to feel higher up the social class than what they are in at that moment.
Now, another cause of peer pressure can be due to environmental situations creating scenarios of potential peer pressure problems. According to PhD professor of Coastal Carolina University Michael Dunn, “research has found that the more risk factors an adolescent has (e.g., poor family communication, peer pressure, lack of family support) the likelihood increases of being involved in risk behaviors such as substance use…” (Effects of Youth Assets on Adolescent Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana Use, and Sexual Behavior).
If a student goes through a traumatic experience, such as a parental divorce, neglect from loved ones, or exclusion from society, then they are potentially more susceptible to peer pressure and to drink more. For example, if a student goes through parental neglect, that student’s mindset will to try to gain any attention, either positive or negative, from the parents. Therefore, the student is at greater risk of peer pressure to drink if the opportunity arises to acquire any attention at all. Being peer pressured to drink and accepting the offer can lead to devastating circumstances.
A study was conducted by Catalina Arata to “demonstrate the importance of both parent and peer variables in adolescent substance use and highlight the negative consequences of drinking reported by high school students” (HIGH SCHOOL DRINKING AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.). Nine hundred and thirty students were surveyed on their own experiences of alcohol, how the peers and parents affected them, and the negative effects of their times spent consuming alcohol. These are the results from the experiment: Two-fifths of males and one-fifth of females reported frequent problem (binge) drinking.
Problem drinkers reported more negative consequences associated with drinking. In addition, problem drinkers reported greater susceptibility to peer pressure, perceived their peers as drinking more, and reported less parental monitoring and more use of alcohol by parents. The results demonstrate the importance of both parent and peer variables in adolescent substance use and highlight the negative consequences of drinking reported by high school students. (Arata)
The use of peer pressure in consumption of alcohol can also lead to a change in a student’s psychological thought process as well. Alyssa Damm writes in her article “Negative Effects of Peer Pressure in High School” of how “peer pressure in high school is both harmful and effective because it can lead to teen depression, high stress levels, negative behavior issues, and poor decision-making and outcomes.”
Depression can lead to one’s dependency on alcohol and substance abuse later on in life. Stress may cause a student to need an outlet and if put in the wrong place at the wrong time, then someone can offer the student a drink and will possibly lead to underage drinking. Being peer pressured into drinking alcohol affects one’s decision making by twisting the conscience into thinking what was wrong before is now right, leading to new, immoral thoughts and thought processes. Alcohol is able to precisely manipulate the the mind into whatever it wants the student to think about.
Statistical analysis has been done on the effects of alcoholic peer pressure an what happens to said students. Research was done by Matt Gonzales who wrote an article titled “Peer Pressure and Alcohol.” He states that, “a report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found 75 percent of surveyed teens feel encouraged to drink after seeing photographs of peers partying on social media” (Gonzales).
This is a staggering amount of teenagers that are wanting to do drugs just to fit in and feel “cool.” Around 60 percent of college students had drank alcohol in the past month and most of them were from house parties or bars, where it is more common to find peer pressure (Gonzales). A psychology professor from Florida Atlantic University named Brett Laursen has studied the issue for a while. He found that “children with few friends are likely to be swayed by peer pressure. He says boys generally want to impress groups while girls aim to impress particular individuals” (Gonzales). Peer pressure is so common throughout these students lives with multiple sources to influence them.
Resisting peer pressure can be very difficult if a student does not know how to respond in social interactions the more preferred way, with making a socially acceptable excuse being one of the main resources to use. By using the right type of excuse, it avoids one needing to drink any type of alcohol without ruining the overall, fun mood of the scenario.
In Dominic Conroy and Richard de Visser’s article titled “Being a non-drinking student: An interpretative phenomenological analysis,” a study was done by the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom using two subjects, named Paul and Andy, to use excuses in certain environments to avoid being peer pressured into drinking. In one scenario, Andy had met some new people that were playing some type of drinking game. He did not want to participate, but he knew that he could not just “come out” and say that. He would have been made fun of and ruined the mood. Instead, he stated that he “can’t drink because [he is] taking antibiotics’…” (Conroy and de Visser). Andy demonstrated that using a socially acceptable excuse can be effective when avoiding this type of situation.
Finding someone to ask for help about how to deal with peer pressure scenarios is another fantastic option with a student battling with these issues, and the number one person to talk to about these situations is the school counselor. Counselors are hired to help students with any obstacles going on in their lives, whether it be academic, athletic, or social issues. In a peer- reviewed article titled “Using the Solving Problems Together Psychoeducational Group Counseling Model as an Intervention for Negative Peer Pressure,” an experiment was conducted using a counselling group called Solving Problems Together (SPT) to help students going through negative peer pressure situations. They created help sessions for students to find new ways to avoid these types of problems. Here are the results from the study:
Professional school counselors can play a vital role in helping these students succeed by helping student examine current peer relationships and teaching them appropriate strategies for responding to negative peer pressure situations. Through small group counseling, the school counselor can help students develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to positively reject or avoid peer pressure. (Hall et al.)
Having a counselor to confide in can be a tremendous option in a student’s battle with peer pressure. No one should be alone when going through situations like this.
Now, the alleyway that you once were lying in is beginning to fade, until you snap back into reality and realize that it was all a dream. There is no bottle of Bacardi, no rugged clothes, and no sense of regret flowing through your heart. With understanding how horrible your life could be with knowing how peer pressure could affect your life so much, that college education is now viewed as way more important than potentially getting caught with a can of beer at the local frat party. Make wise, educated decisions, and do not allow peer pressure to control your future.