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Teenagers and peer pressure

Peer pressure comes from friends and other people a teenager knows who may urge them to do something they don’t want to do, such as have sex, drink alcohol or take drugs.

Phrases used in peer pressure include: "Everyone’s doing it" and "You'd do it if you really loved me."

At some point, everyone has the desire to give in to peer pressure. If you're interested in sport, you might seek out footballers and athletes. If you're interested in music, you spend time with others who enjoy music. You belong to that group, and feel secure when you’re part of it. The group identifies who you are and what you’re about.

What if people in "your group" start doing things that are wrong, hurtful, or even illegal? And what if these same people are your friends?

This is what we refer to as peer pressure - the pressure to conform to the behaviours, attitudes, and personal habits of "the group". In many cases, there are serious risks involved. Let’s look at some common situations. Think about what you would do in each:

"My friends told me about this party at this abandoned warehouse on Friday night. I know there’s going to be alcohol involved, and someone there is supposed to bring some cannabis. I don’t drink or take drugs, but I don’t want them to think I’m a loser."

"This older guy that I really like smokes cigarettes. He keeps offering them to me and my friends. Last week my best friend Stacy smoked one with him."

"My girlfriend keeps pleading with me to go all the way with her. She says 'everybody’s having sex' these days, but I want to save myself for marriage. All of my friends have had sex, and I really like my girlfriend. I don’t want her to think I’m some kind of prude."

In all of these cases, your decision about how to handle the peer pressure can have great consequences.

What if the police raid the party at the warehouse and you are arrested? How would your parents react when the police call them? How would an arrest affect your chances of getting into university or your reputation?

As for the second example, it goes without saying how bad smoking is for your health, including the risk of lung disease, heart disease, and cancer. It's all too easy to get addicted to cigarettes.

Speaking of long-term effects, you really have to think through what you’d do in the third example. Having sex even once could leave your girlfriend pregnant. You’d have to change your life from father. And what if you got a sexually transmitted infection? How would you cope if you found out you had chlamydia, gonorrhoea or HIV?

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