Negative and Positive Peer Pressure Differences

Female teens on a soccer field hugging

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Peer pressure is not always a bad thing. Your teen's friends may use peer pressure to influence her in a positive manner at times. 

The way your teen responds to peer pressure defines who she is as an individual. Is she a leader or a follower? 


As your teen grows older, her peers will play a bigger role in her life. Her friends may influence everything from what she wears to how she talks.

If your teen makes healthy choices in the friends she chooses, those peers may inspire her to try new things or they may encourage her to do her best. But, if your teen starts hanging around with the wrong crowd, like peers who skip school, do drugs, and break the law, they're likely to influence her behavior in an unhealthy way.

But keep in mind that just because your teen engages in positive activities doesn't mean she experienced positive peer pressure. If her friends pressure her into playing soccer because "it's the cool thing to do," she might join the team. But if she doesn't want to play, being on the team may have a negative effect on her. 

Of course, most negative peer pressure involves more serious problems, like pressuring a teen to smoke cigarettes or experiment with drugs. Clearly, this type of peer pressure can have serious lifelong consequences.

The difference is all about the outcome. If your teen's peers convince them to do something and it turns out to be healthy for them, the peer pressure was positive. If, however, they get pressured into making unhealthy choices, the peer pressure was negative.


Most teens are terrified of being picked on or being made fun of. Consequently, they're often eager to do the things their peers tell them to do.

Here are a few examples of positive peer pressure:

  • Your teen's friends tell him he should study harder so he can get better grades. He decides it's cool to get good grades on his test.
  • A group of friends all get jobs after school and they convince your teen he should get a job too because it's fun to have spending money. It gives your teen the confidence to apply for a job.
  • Several of your teen's friends buy their own cars. Your teen becomes motivated to save his money so he can buy his own car too.

Here a few examples of negative peer pressure:

  • Your teen has sex even though she doesn't want to because her boyfriend convinced her if she loved him, she would.
  • Your teen skips school because it's senior skip day and she doesn't want to get made fun of for showing up.
  • Your teen purchases e-cigarettes online because her friends tell she can get away with it.

Choose Your Battles Wisely

You don't always have to agree with your teen's choice of fashion or her decisions about how to decorate her room. But it's important to intervene when she's headed down an unhealthy road. 

As the parent, you'll still have the biggest influence over your teen, even though it may not feel like it sometimes. Establish clear rules and expectations, and follow through with consequences when necessary.

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