How to Help Teens Deal With Social Pressure

Adolescents are really sensitive to changes in their social environment. In fact, this time is particularly relevant for the construction of their identity and conquest of autonomy.
How to Help Teens Deal With Social Pressure
Sara González Juárez

Written and verified by the psychologist Sara González Juárez.

Last update: 09 April, 2023

Managing social pressure can be quite a challenge, especially in adolescence. It might be due to the friend who’s the first in the group to start drinking. Or, the one who judges others on appearance. Whatever the case may be, at this extremely sensitive stage for the construction of identity, the teen can experience tremendous pressure.

Adolescence is the stage when opinions and moral values establish themselves and the need for permanence increases. As a result, teens attempt to impose their views on others, while trying to also find like-minded groups. Unsurprisingly, this can turn into chaos.

How can they handle social pressure at this vitally important stage? Is it possible to help them? Find out here.

Sad teenager looking in the mirror
In adolescents, social pressure manifests with one main objective: for them to feel part of a group.

Social pressure

Social pressure refers to a specific type of influence exerted between people who belong to the same group. Sometimes, it’s unconscious. For example, when a leader sets an example of certain behaviors. At other times, it’s intentional. Although it’s not always harmful, it always incites the rest of the individuals to behave in a certain way to feel part of the group.

Social pressure can have two types of impact, positive or negative. Social pressure with a positive impact stimulates personal growth, thus creating more open, tolerant, and responsible individuals. But, when it has a negative impact, situations occur that every parent dreads. It means the teen might start using drugs, generate conflict, or discriminate against others.

Consequences of negative social pressure

As a rule, although there are special cases, peers have a great influence on teens. This is necessary and positive. That’s because, it’s at this time that they diverge from the education and influence of their family, and start to build their own identity, thanks to their experiences. However, if the social pressure they receive is negative, the consequences can be dire:

  • Distance from relatives. Although some opposition is natural, some influences can intensify it. This means that the protection that the family nucleus can provide might be invalidated.
  • The appearance of academic problems. Low grades, absenteeism, etc.
  • The development of mental disorders. The anxiety to respond to the perceived demands of the group can seriously compromise the teen’s mental health.
  • Risky behaviors. Violence, drug use, etc.
  • Low self-esteem. Many of the most disabling fears of this stage are linked to body image.

We must bear in mind that not all social pressure is verbal. In fact, it can occur silently via the depiction of certain behaviors as being desirable.

Keys to managing social pressure in adolescence

The ability to judge peer influences as good or bad varies from one teen to another. It’s a challenge that involves both the individual and their environment. Here are some useful ideas to help teens manage social pressure.

1. Work on their coping skills

Teens spend many of their resources finding the best strategies for entering or leaving certain social contexts. For example, they may find themselves at a party but don’t really want to be there. As a rule, they start looking for a way to leave without being rejected by their group.

The psychological resources for successfully handling these kinds of social situations are self-esteem and assertiveness. With healthy levels of these variables, the probability of the teen experiencing any kind of rejection decreases. In addition, it’s more likely that they won’t agree to do something they don’t really want to do.

2. Giving value to their own self-knowledge

Teens need to recognize that their priorities and needs, as well as their identities, are as valid as anyone else’s. It doesn’t matter if they’re not the same as the others in their environment. For instance, if their priority is to get good grades, it’s okay. If they relax by playing video games, that’s okay too, even if the rest of their friends prefer playing sports or going to the movies.

3. Surrounding themselves with the right people

It isn’t necessary to encourage teens to be good students or model citizens. The most important thing in handling social pressure is for them to find groups that are safe spaces, where no one is discriminated against and social support is provided.

teenagers talking
Having a positive social group not only helps them generate positive memories and experiences but also limits their exposure to negative influences that push them in the wrong direction.

Peer and family support

Finally, it’s worth noting the role of peers, family, and society in general in minimizing negative social pressure on teens. If you’re their friend, try not to impose what you think is correct. After all, if the behavior is positive, they’ll probably end up doing it anyway, with no need for pressure from you.

On the other hand, if you’re living with a teen, remember that their personality and identity are in the making and your influence will be decisive. In addition to being a good role model, you should make sure you offer affectionate and reinforcing advice and guidance. Above all, never invalidate their needs or emotions.

As a member of society, to a certain extent, teens are a reflection of what happens around them. If we want them to stop facing difficult tests like negative social pressure, the best solution will always be to promote values of tolerance, respect, and freedom.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Cicua, D., Méndez, M., & Ortega, L. M. (2008). Factores en el consumo de alcohol en adolescentes. Pensamiento psicológico4(11), 115-134.
  • Portela de Santana, M. L., da Costa Ribeiro Junior, H., Mora Giral, M., & Raich, R. M. (2012). La epidemiología y los factores de riesgo de los trastornos alimentarios en la adolescencia: una revisión. Nutrición hospitalaria27(2), 391-401.
  • Câmara, S. G., Sarriera, J. C., & Carlotto, M. S. (2007). Predictores de conductas sexuales de riesgo entre adolescentes. Revista Interamericana de Psicología/Interamerican Journal of Psychology41(2), 161-166.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.