The negative results of peer pressure can be quantified in terms of truancy, delinquency, contact with law enforcement, and eventual incarceration. Indeed, there is an explosion of youth deviance, sexual activity, and violence that affects us all. The results of peer pressure may be overt, but the causes are often more subtle and elusive. Understanding peer pressure is a critical factor in understanding the teenage years and mediating the potential bad decisions that are made by teenagers as they surrender their judgement to a group's expectations and norms. Peer pressure is a destructive force that has proliferated in the face of impersonal social institutions, diminished life choices, and families that fail to offer their children the emotional support necessary to develop a well-rounded sense of self-esteem and personal identity.
The issue of peer pressure has gained increasing importance in recent years due to the proliferation of pop culture media, social networking, availability of drugs, and the easy access to guns in our society. This paper will use a review of the existing literature to determine the underlying vulnerabilities to peer pressure, and highlight the ways in which its social impact can be minimized. The representation of teenage socialization in the mass media often highlights the influence that peers have to corrupt teenage values, which "leads to deviant behaviors such as smoking, drinking, drug use, dangerous driving, violence, provocative dress, and sexual promiscuity" (Schwind, 2008, p. 1015). These social forces conspire to motivate teenagers to make decisions that they would otherwise reject if they based their behavior solely on family socialization, community values, and accepted social norms. However, it is the suspension of these beliefs in favor of a group's deviant values that results in poor decisions and behavioral problems. By the time a child reaches middle school, their friends are the biggest influence in their life, and peer acceptance or rejection is the number one predictor of their personal emotional safety (Hartnett, 2007, p. 37). By this age, the child has become aware of their status among their peers, uses gossip for information and retaliation, is concerned about rejection, and is willing to significantly modify their behavior to gain peer group acceptance (Deutsch, 2000, p. 333). When these forces result in a beneficial outcome, such as church attendance or volunteer work, it is called a positive influence. When the results are negative, it is labeled peer pressure and has the negative connotation of coercion. Though peer pressure affects all ages and has a wide range of outcomes, this paper will focus on the negative results from peer pressure during the teenage years.
Peer pressure in adolescents has a dual motivational aspect, as it has the positive goal of gaining group acceptance, and expresses the negative motivation of the rebellion against the established power structure. As teenagers struggle to create and express their identity, the symbols of group alliance become a part of their personal individuality. These outward symbols may be the overt fashions and accessories that they wear, the use of