18 Peer Pressure Examples

peer pressure examples and definition, explained below

Peers have undeniable power over one another. This leads to peer pressure – a phenomenon where someone feels pressured into doing something in order to be part of an in-group.

In other words, peer pressure is when someone is influenced by their peers to do something they may not be comfortable with.

It has both positive and negative impacts. Positive effects include fostering healthy habits or academic goals, if a young person is in a prosocial peer group. Negative effects include being enticed into truancy, antisocial behavior, and using foul language.

Adolescents may face the most significant social pressures as the desire to ‘fit in’ tends to be strongest during the teen years.

But peer pressure also extend beyonds young ages. Adults experience similar scenarios in professional environments where they aim for acceptance by colleagues in order to achieve advantages such as promotions or favoritism.

Definition of Peer Pressure

When people are influenced by those around them who share similar characteristics, such as age group or background, it can be referred to as peer pressure.

The dynamics vary but essentially involve peers urging each other into sharing the same attitudes, beliefs, values, behaviors, etc.

Peer pressure can be defined as:

“…social pressure by members of one’s peer group to take a certain action, adopt certain values, or otherwise conform in order to be accepted” (Molenda & Subramony, 2020, p. 321).

According to Adimora and colleagues (2018),

“…peer pressure is commonly associated with events of adolescent risk-taking […] because these activities commonly occur in the company of peers” (p. 220).

From the viewpoint of social psychology, this concept has been subjected to the theories of social learning and social identity:

  • Social learning theory emphasizes that people learn through observation, instruction, and imitation (Defoe et al., 2018).
  • Social identity theory suggests that people identify with a group and follow their norms so as to feel part of something (Graupensperger et al., 2018).

Albert and colleagues (2013) believe that:

“…in addition to a puberty-related spike in interest in opposite-sex relationships, adolescents spend more time than children or adults interacting with peers, report the highest degree of happiness when in peer contexts, and assign greatest priority to peer norms for behavior” (p. 117).

Different areas of life have been explored concerning the effects of peer pressure, such as substance use, academic performance, aggression, risky sexual behavior, and conformity, amongst others. 

Simply, peer pressure happens when individuals conform to societal expectations within their social group while seeking validation from others. 

Examples of Peer Pressure

  • Encouraging sports participation: Sometimes, peers can encourage their friends to participate in physical activities like playing on a sports team, leading to increased physical health and social skills.
  • Ostracization: This type of peer pressure involves ostracizing someone who doesn’t conform to group behaviors or expectations.
  • Seeking help for mental health issues: Those who may hesitate to seek help for mental health issues might choose to do so when seeing peers receive help and support from others in similar situations.
  • Skipping school: Peers who regularly skip class might influence their classmates into doing the same.
  • Promoting volunteerism and community service: Collaborating with friends on a volunteer project can instill civic-mindedness while strengthening relationships through shared experiences.
  • Unsafe driving practices: Peer influence from a group with reckless driving habits can encourage risky behavior behind the wheel, leading teens to take dangerous risks when driving.
  • Healthy eating habits: Eating together with peers and adopting good dietary choices, such as eating nutritious food, can promote healthy lifestyles among young people.
  • Cheating: The pressure to remain competitive academically leads some students to cheat, whether copying homework questions during group study sessions or other unethical behaviors negatively impacting academic integrity.
  • Encouraging social awareness: Peers sharing information about current social justice concerns affecting their locality may spur young people towards being active citizens supporting causes that advance positive impact within their communities.
  • Academic performance: Friends can motivate each other to study harder and achieve better grades in school, creating a healthy academic competition. However, it could also lead to unhealthy competition if academic performance becomes the sole way friends ascribe value to themselves and others.
  • Fashion trends: Fashion is a key way in which we see peer pressure taking place, where young people feel the implicit expectation that they lean into certain trends to ‘fit in’ within their clique.
  • Excessive video gaming: If a young person’s friends are all playing a video game, then they may feel peer pressured into playing the game as well so they can participate in the discussions.
  • Participation in risky activities: Peer pressure can lead to involvement in dangerous activities, like engaging in filmed stunts on order to impress your firends.
  • Reading habits: Positive peer influence can inspire young people to start reading, if it’s part of the group norm.
  • Environmental consciousness: Peers can influence each other to adopt eco-friendly habits like recycling and reducing waste, especially if members of the group regularly comment when they see people littering or violating environmental norms.
  • Politics: People often develop their political views based upon the views, experiences, and pressure of the people around them.
  • Physical fitness: Friends can have both a positive and negative influence on our fitness. For example, if you spend time around people who go to the gym, you may feel pressure to also attend in order to have the muscles or physique that friends appear to value so much.
  • Social media presence: Peers can influence each other to frequently post on social media. A concern about this is that it can lead young people into feeling they need constant validation for their social posts.

Types of Peer Pressure

Peer pressure can take various forms at any point in life, with common examples including spoken and unspoken cues, direct and indirect approaches, and positive or negative influences.

Let’s have a closer look at the most common types:

1. Spoken Peer Pressure

This type of peer pressure involves explicit communication from a person or group trying to convince another person to engage in a specific behavior or activity (The Severson Sisters, 2015).

Common examples include individual requests or direct commands, such as “Come on, don’t be a wimp – take this shot with us!” 

2. Unspoken Peer Pressure

Unlike spoken peer pressure, unspoken pressure is conveyed through implicit social cues such as body language.

This can create an environment that pressures individuals to act in specific ways without giving explicit instructions (The Severson Sisters, 2015).

Teenagers may need to fit into their peers’ beauty standards by wearing expensive designer clothes instead of opting for more affordable options.

3. Direct Peer Pressure

This form of pressure is clear and easy to recognize because it involves direct interactions between people who influence others through persuasion, coercion, or threats (Paul, 2011).

 For example, “If you don’t shoplift with us, we won’t let you hang out with us again.”

4. Indirect Peer Pressure

Indirect peer pressure is less apparent than direct peer pressure because it relies on social cues and nonverbal behaviors that place subtle constraints upon social behavior (Paul, 2011).

So, a teenager may begin smoking cigarettes despite knowing the health risks because her friends smoke socially, and she wants to fit in.

5. Positive Peer Pressure

Positive peer pressure refers to situations where friends encourage each other towards positive behavior that contributes positively to one’s personal development, well-being, and community involvement (Prinstein & Dodge, 2010).

So, friends motivate someone struggling with their mental health issues by suggesting they seek professional help to not struggle alone, thereby offering tangible emotional support.

6. Negative Peer Pressure

Negative peer pressure refers to influences that lead individuals to engage in risky behaviors, which can have short-term and long-term negative effects.

Examples of such behaviors include drug use, bullying, vandalism, and more (Prinstein & Dodge, 2010).

For instance, a group of young people daring a peer to take illicit drugs or pull a dangerous prank with criminal liability consequences in public.

Factors Leading to Peer Pressure

Peer pressure can be caused by various factors – from the desire for approval and social acceptance to even media influence (Prinstein & Dodge, 2010).

Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Desire for approval and social acceptance: People want to feel accepted and included in their social groups, often leading them to conform to group norms or behavior patterns.
  • Fear of rejection: The desire to avoid rejection from one social group is a strong enough incentive to cause individuals to behave in ways they wouldn’t normally choose.
  • Self-esteem issues: When one’s self-confidence wavers and their trust in personal judgment is uncertain, consulting with others becomes a viable option despite any potential disagreement with the guidance received.
  • Developmental stage: Adolescence is a period when young people begin seeking their identity and independence while navigating emotional turbulence, making them particularly vulnerable to peer influence.
  • Group dynamics: The characteristics of the group itself play an important role. Studies indicate that groups with high conformity pressures tend toward behaviors opposite to those seen in less conformity-focused groups.
  • Media influence: Peer pressure from media influences such as music videos, movies, or social media further reinforces stereotypical expectations about how one should look, act and think, impacting an individual’s perception of behaviors and influencing normative thinking patterns

Consequences of Peer Pressure

Peer pressure can result in both positive and negative consequences. From engaging in risky behaviors to increasing confidence, understanding the effects of peer pressure can help you decide how to best respond to it.

Let’s take a closer look:

Negative Consequences of Peer Pressure

  • Engaging in risky behaviors: Peer pressure can drive people to engage in harmful activities and dangerous behaviors.
  • Damaged self-esteem: When conforming to group expectations that do not align with personal values or interests, individuals may be forced into suppressing their true selves leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
  • Negatively affecting relationships with family members or shifting focus from academic priorities: When peer groups prioritize socializing over academic pursuits, which may lead an individual towards a more anti-social lifestyle. This is often followed by strained relationships with family members with conflicting expectations.
  • Mental health issues: Negative peer influence can lead individuals to suppress their true emotions and experience disappointment due to poor behavioral choices. This can increase the risk of developing mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.
  • Poor decision-making skills: Dependence on peer approval might lead one to overlook potential consequences, resulting in a general disregard for long-term outcomes associated with impulsive decisions without considering possible outcomes down the road (Prinstein & Dodge, 2010).

Positive Consequences of Peer Pressure

  • Encouragement towards healthy habits: Influential friends who motivate an individual towards new healthy habits such as workouts and healthy eating habits leading to positive overall well-being.
  • Adopting civic responsibility: Getting involved in activism and participating in socially conscious projects allows young people to pursue passionate causes and make a positive impact in their local communities. This can foster meaningful engagement and personal growth among youth.
  • Increased confidence: Positive social reinforcement builds self-confidence by recognizing and acknowledging hard work and achievements. This fosters independent thinking that is not solely reliant on external influences. In addition, positive feedback exchanges empower individuals, further enhancing their self-confidence.
  • Improved character development: Peer groups that emphasize individual character development support building valuable life skills like teamwork, leadership collaboration, and communication, increasing personal growth among the group members.
  • Creative expansion, sharing ideas: Mutual idea-sharing leading to creative ventures feeds into personal development while strengthening the peer group’s bonds (Prinstein & Dodge, 2010).


Peer pressure is a powerful force that can influence individuals’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

From harmful behaviors like drug abuse or bullying to positive influences such as promoting volunteerism and community service, peer pressure plays a significant role in shaping individual beliefs and attitudes.

Understanding the underlying factors driving peer pressure can help recognize potentially negative situations while reinforcing positive behavior patterns amongst peers. 

Young people need to find a balance in social interactions that support their personal growth and self-expression while aligning it with positive values so they can make informed decisions that align with their character independently.

By being self-aware of potential negative peer influences while positively reinforcing better decisions for themselves or others, one can lead a more fulfilling life, ultimately achieving their goals effortlessly.


Adimora, D. E., Akaneme, I. N., & Aye, E. N. (2018). Peer pressure and home environment as predictors of disruptive and risky sexual behaviours of secondary school adolescents. African Health Sciences18(2), 218–226. https://doi.org/10.4314/ahs.v18i2.4

Albert, D., Chein, J., & Steinberg, L. (2013). Peer influences on adolescent decision making. Current Directions in Psychological Science22(2), 114–120. https://doi.org/10.1177/0963721412471347

Defoe, I. N., Dubas, J. S., & van Aken, M. A. G. (2018). The relative roles of peer and parent predictors in minor adolescent delinquency: Exploring gender and adolescent phase differences. Frontiers in Public Health6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2018.00242

Graupensperger, S. A., Benson, A. J., & Blair Evans, M. (2018). Everyone else is doing it: The association between social identity and susceptibility to peer influence in NCAA athletes. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology40(3), 117–127. https://doi.org/10.1123/jsep.2017-0339

Molenda, M. H., & Subramony, D. P. (2020). The elements of instruction. Routledge.

Paul, T. (2011). Living with peer pressure and bullying. Paw Prints.

Prinstein, M. J., & Dodge, K. A. (2010). Understanding peer influence in children and adolescents. Guilford.

The Severson Sisters. (2015). Supergirl guide to peer pressure. Morgan James Publishing.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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