KATHMANDU, Sept 19: So much has been heard, talked and written about peer pressure but it is more often than not about a peer group encouraging or in case of a lethal scenario, forcing a ‘new comer’ or an ‘existing member’.
Peer pressure is not always confrontational but a few people tend to be submissive to the group behavior to fit in.
A classroom will have all sorts of students; from a hip gang to a nerd gang or someone who just acts smart and over the top all the time. Likeminded people come together, form groups and do things together. However, it can’t be said that all of them have the same choices and likings and hence, the pressure to fit into the group begins.
But are all kinds of peer pressure negative?
Shikha Pradhan, 17 says, “I picked up certain phrases and words in school from my classmates really quickly. It wasn’t anything like peer pressure. I used to laugh whenever my friends used words like ‘thuiyaa’, ‘hetterika’ and ‘launa ni’. So they used to make me say the words often. Before I could realize I was using them myself.”
But there are other things young people could get pressured to try.
Things you pick up on while hanging out with a circle of people that in time turns into a habit like swearing, change in behavioral patterns, from the way you dress to the way you talk and even smoking, drinking and hanging out late.
Types of Peer Pressure
Peer pressure could be spoken or non-spoken. “Sometimes what happens is that one begins to feel s/he is supposed to act or dress a certain way because it is the cool thing to do. Even though nobody really says anything, you begin to feel that way and the non-spoken peer pressure takes its toll,” says Shikha.
Similarly, other types are obvious, underhand and controlling peer pressure. When someone in the group or the group itself tries to leave you out of certain conversation or activity, it is underhand pressure. Underhand pressure works psychologically and provokes the need to fit in and be accepted. Say someone says things like “you wouldn’t understand what you’re missing, you are a vegetarian.” That is underhand pressure.
Controlling peer pressure is when you are being emotionally blackmailed. Heavy peer pressure which includes bullying and physical violence are prevalent in schools and colleges all over the world. Youths across the globe have faced pressure to shoplift, cheat in exams, vandalize property, bully other students, skip school and participate in racist and discriminatory behavior.
“I don’t think peer pressure is so much a problem. Even though the circle does not force, one feels the need to do what the circle does, in order to be accepted,” says 19-year-old Jenish Maharjan who is studying Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Information Technology at St. Xavier’s College, Maitighar.
“If you have friends who backbite, talk about petty things, you eventually have to join in sometimes if you want to fit in or be a perpetual outsider and be talked about,” says Rubina Chitrakar, 20, a Bachelor of Art and Social Work at St. Xavier’s.
“Teenage is about autonomy and identity formation. The need to be a part of a group and have your place outside home is the priority in this stage. Peer pressure is not just prevalent in one particular culture but is universally noted,” says Rena Shrestha, child psychologist at Autism Care Nepal, “It is a part of natural development process.”
But what is it that these young people do when they are peer pressured? Some might give in, some might restrain while some will just ignore the pressure and let things slide.
Coping with peer pressure
“I think talking about it with friends who pressurize you helps. If you are not comfortable with the constant pressure, you can always clear things out; let them know that you don’t like it,” says Rubina, “Or you could tell your parents about the issue and ask them what would be the right thing to do.”
Realizing that you are with the wrong crowd and moving on to some other circle of friends is something which happens very rarely. But the ones who do not give in to pressure will eventually feel like outcasts.
“If you are being forced to do something you aren’t comfortable with or you don’t want to, then it is only normal that you will feel out of place. Once that feeling is there though, you start disliking the company of those friends. As cliché as it sounds, it all depends on an individual and whether or not he is easily influenced,” said Jenish.
“It depends on family situation and upbringing of an individual,” puts psychologist Shrestha, “Parental control and communication should be taken into consideration in any case. Peer pressure is normal in adolescence and this is where moral education comes in,” she further adds. “Schools and colleges have counselors to help students cope with this.”
According to Shrestha, although peer pressure is usually deemed as something negative, it gets children started in decision making and is a part of growing up.
Peer pressure isn’t always forceful and it is not always about having the willpower to overcome it. There will always be a negative and positive aspect in every decision one makes. It’s about choosing what is best for you.