Merriam-Webster defines a peer as “a person who belongs to the same age group or social group as someone else.” ("Peer." Merriam-Webster) Right away, all sorts of people should come to mind. Co-workers, friends, even family. A peer is not necessarily someone you are close to, have a common interest with, or are even just friends with, they are simply someone who is similar to you based on age, grade, social class, gender, and other things you cannot control. Unless you move to a deserted island, you will always have peers. Peers have always been around, but to what extent? We will explore a little bit of how youth today are impacted by their peers, and compare it to how the youth of 50 years ago were impacted by their peers. Is there a difference? Or was one generation more influenced by their peers than the other? These are questions that will be answered by the end of this paper, along with a few more.
Peer pressure is the term used to describe the influence from members of one's peer group. It can be positive, such as a bunch of guys convincing their very athletic friend to go out for sports instead of getting into trouble or it can be negative, such as a group of teens encouraging a younger kid to try smoking to fit in. Peer groups assert an amount of peer pressure automatically, even if they are not trying. As soon as one of the members of a group knows that another member is going to do one thing, it will influence his decision at least to some degree. Now the choice is still up to the individual, usually, but everyone has some influence.
The youth of today face heavy peer pressure to conform to the worlds standards from a young age. Kids encounter both negative and positive peer pressure as they transition into adolescence, and as their friendships and concept of friendship matures. Peer groups play a large part of a young person's development, and some will argue they have a stronger influence than even the parents have. (Psychology. Vol. 4) This is all but the norm in today's culture, as kids are spending less and less time at home, and more and more time involved in outside activities. More time at different activities, usually means more time with friends, and less time with mom and dad. I’m sure you’d have a hard time seeing the downside of this system! Some kids don't even have a mom or dad to come home to, and look for other people as role models to fill that space in their lives. All too often they look to their peers for guidance, writing disaster all over the situation. Now, a lot of kids do have good peers, who influence them in positive ways, I'm not all down in the dumps, but the common stereotype is not a good one. This shows how our peer groups work in this culture. Peers are frequently taking the place of parents in a child's development, and time and time again it turns out for the worse.
But has it always been this way? Did our parents go through these same trials, or even our grandparents? The answer is no....