Resisting peer pressure

September 28, 2011, Northwestern University

The company an adolescent keeps, particularly when it comes to drugs and criminal activity, affects bad behavior. Right?

It all depends, according to a new Northwestern University study "Being in 'Bad' Company: Power Dependence and Status in Adolescent to Peer Influence" which appears in the September issue of Quarterly.

The research, conducted in a primarily Hispanic, low-income neighborhood, looked at diverse groups of friends that included both academically high- and low-achieving kids.

According to the study, some in the mixed groups were insulated from the influence of peers who were delinquent or low academic achievers. "Opposite to what a lot of researchers think would happen, some kids in the groups, for example, were doing drugs, while others were not," said Robert Vargas, a doctoral student in sociology at Northwestern and author of the study.

Neighborhood violence and territorial boundaries were likely to be part of the dynamics affecting the bad behavior of the kids who were negatively influenced by peers.

"It wasn't that these kids thought the bad behavior was 'cool,' but rather neighborhood violence constrained their friendship choices," he said.

In the neighborhood where Vargas conducted his research, the territorial border of the major in the neighborhood made it difficult for kids to walk to a friend's house who lived on "the other side" of the neighborhood.

"The young in the neighborhood were very territorial and would attack young people perceived to be in the rival gang when they crossed the border," he said. "Those fearful of being caught in the crossfire tended to avoid crossing the gang boundary, greatly restricting access to certain friends."

from such often don't have the power to find other friends or leave their friendship groups to avoid negative peer pressure. "The effects of neighborhood violence and fears of crossing gang boundaries influences these young people to hang out with people they otherwise would avoid," Vargas said.

Neighborhood violence, the study suggests, victimizes many more than those being directly attacked.

In terms of policy implications, Vargas said, "The study demonstrates the need for policymakers and educators to move beyond public campaigns that convey to adolescents that undesirable acts are 'not cool,' and consider factors that make adolescents dependent on friends or adults.

"As adolescents were influenced by individuals they depended on most, policymakers and educators should consider trying to make more dependent on positive role models by, for example, requiring community service hours."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.