Can Peer Pressure Be A Good Thing?
Megan M. Schad, Meredyth A. Evans, David E. Szwedo, Joseph P. Allen
University of Virginia
We would like to thank the National Institute of Mental Health for funding awarded to Joseph P. Allen, Principal Investigator, (R01-MH58066) for the conduct and write-up of this study.
Introduction At Time 3, teens came in with their best friends as well as a subset of target
teens also bringing in their romantic partners (N = 95). During this data
partners who report less use of negative relationship strategies from the
teen in later adolescence (see Figure 1).
collection, romantic partners’ report of teens’ use of negative strategies was
It has been well documented that peer pressure affects teens’ behavior. collected as well as best friends’ perception of conflict resolution between them Table 1. Regression Analyses predicting Relationship Qualities for Friendships, Romantic Relationships, and Parental Relationships in
Many studies have shown how peer pressure causes teens to act in certain and the target teen. Best Friend Rpt of Romantic Partner+ Observed Positive Autonomy
ways, especially with reference to delinquency, alcohol use, and other Conflict Resolution Rpt of Neg Strategies & Relatedness to Mom
friendships (Berdt & Keefe, 1995; Pleydon & Schner, 2001). There is, Measures β entry β final β entry β final β entry β final
however, a lack of longitudinal research examining peer pressure’s possible Step 1.
Gender .10 .05 .27** .37*** -.13 -.02
positive effects on adolescent friendships. Similarly, there is a lack of Pressure to Fit In Income .18* .12 -.07 -.03 -.17* .33
research linking peer pressure to other types of close relationships, such as
parent-teen and romantic relationships. This scale was modeled off the Self-Perception Profile (Harter, 1998), and has Pressure to Fit In .29*** .29*** -.28** -.28** .25*** .25***
adequate internal consistency (α = .61). This 16-item scale included items such R2 from Step 1. .04* .08* .04*
This study addresses these issues by employing longitudinal, multi-reporter as “Some teens do things just because other teens do them.” ΔR2 .08*** .07** .16***
data to examine the positive effects of peer pressure on adolescents’ Final R2 .12*** .15** .20***
relationships with their friends, romantic partners & parents. It is Positive Autonomy & Relatedness Note. * p < .05. ** p < .01. *** p < .001. + N = 95, else N = 184
important to note that a specified form of peer pressure is being used in the
current study, described as Pressure to Fit In. This pressure is focused on Target teens and mothers were asked to discuss an area of disagreement that the
interpersonal aspects such as “getting ideas about how to act from their Observed Positive
teen chose for 8 minutes and try to come to some agreement about the topic.
friends.” Specifically, the following questions will be addressed: The tape was coded for behaviors including validating mother's statements,
being engaged (i.e. not distracted) with the task, and how easily the teen retorts Relatedness to Mom
Research Questions (i.e. is the teen confident enough with the relationship to say how they feel with
Does peer pressure positively affect close friendships later in adolescence? β =.25***
assurance?) (Allen et al. 1994).
If so, does peer pressure also positively affect other close relationships, such β = -.28** Partner Report of
Network of Relationships Inventory
as romantic relationships and parent-teen relationships, later in Pressure to Fit In Teens’ use of
adolescence? Romantic partners reported on teen’s use of negative strategies on a 5-point Negative Strategies
Likert scale with higher scores indicating increases in negative strategies
(Furman, 1996). The scale included 3 items. β =.29***
Method Friendship Quality Questionnaire
Best Friend Report
of Teens’ Conflict
Participants Teen’s best friends at Time 3 were asked to report on teens’ conflict resolution. Resolution
184 teenagers along with their best friends, mothers, and romantic This was collected using the conflict and resolution scale from the Friendship
partners. Quality Questionnaire (Parker & Asher, 1993). This 3-item scale was reported Figure 1. Pressure to Fit In Predicting Positive Interactions with Mother, Best Friends, and Romantic Partners.
on a 5-point Likert scale.
58% Caucasian, 29% African American, and 13% Mixed or Other
Average household income was within the $30,000 to $39,000 range.
Target teen mean age was 13.3 years at Time 1, 16.3 at Time 2, & 19.6 at Results suggest that teens who feel greater pressure to fit in (as reported by These findings suggest that feeling pressure to fit in during early adolescence
Time 3. teen’s best friend) during early adolescence (13-14 years in age), show more may be adaptive to the development of positive peer, parent, and romantic
positive relationships with friends, romantic partners, and parents later in relationships. Perhaps those teens who felt the greatest degree of pressure to
Procedures adolescence (18-19 years in age) (see Table 1). fit in early on, chose to ameliorate such peer pressure by altering their
behavior, thereby learning how to fit in and improve their relationships with
At Time 1, target teens’ best friend reported on teens’ pressure to fit in. Specifically, teens feeling a greater pressure to fit in at age 14, displayed better their peers, and in turn, using those same socially adaptive tools to foster other
conflict resolution skills in their friendships 5 years later. Similarly, teens who positive close relationships with their parents and romantic partners. That is,
At Time 2, target teens’ and their mothers were video taped discussing a feel more pressure to fit in early on, are more likely to exhibit more positive teens who are able to learn how to interact positively with their friends can
topic of disagreement. This interaction was coded for behaviors which autonomy and relatedness towards their mother, and to have romantic subsequently learn to cultivate positive relationships with others.
promote the autonomy of the relationships and encourage relatedness
between the two.