Peer pressure occurs when a peer group or individual encourages others to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors to conform to those of the influencing group or individual.
Peer pressure can impact bullying behavior both in positive and negative ways. For example, the influence can have negative effects if a peer group’s bullying behavior encourages others to laugh at someone. It can also be negative when the group views other individuals as not worthy to be part of their group. The impact of negative peer pressure can create environments in which individuals are intimidated to speak out on behalf of someone being hurt or harmed.
Peer pressure can also be positive and healthy. For example, when the peer group encourages kind and inclusive behavior, such as inviting others to join them at the lunch table or letting someone know that they care what is happening to them. The action of peers encouraging each other to reach out to those who are struggling can have a positive impact on the group and other individuals who want to speak out against bullying.
At PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, the vision is “to make every child safe and to change the culture in our society so that bullying is no longer acceptable.” One way to promote this cultural change is to encourage others to be kind, inclusive, and accepting.
Peer pressure can impact bullying behavior both in positive and negative ways. It is about feelings of fitting in with a group, whether they are friends or a group you would like to be friends with in the future. There is a positive impact when students create “feel good” moments, encouraging positive and healthy behavior, and make peers eager to join in. For example, if a group is raising money for a good cause and want other friends to join in, or if a group of friends is playing a game of basketball and want others who are not as active to join in their fun game.
Research shows that bystander intervention is extremely important and students who witness bullying have a powerful role in the situation. This can impact bullying directly when a group or individual encourages others to step up and support someone who is being teased, to invite someone who has experienced bullying to sit with them at lunch or join an activity, or to simply let them know that they are not alone.
Peer pressure can also impact bullying in a negative way. If bystanders laugh when someone is being bullied, it shows support for the student bullying, not for the target. If what an individual or group is encouraging makes people feel bad, guilty, or like they are hurting other’s feelings, the behavior is most likely causing someone to feel sad and isolated.
Peer pressure is a natural part of forming friendships and maintaining groups. It has probably always been a part of society. Bullying behavior is about using one’s power over someone else in a hurtful way. Because bystander intervention is so important in helping to prevent bullying, using peer pressure in a positive and healthy way to encourage kindness, inclusion, and acceptance is one way to make a positive impact in our schools and communities.