This is an initial commentary on peer pressure and the power of influence
Did you know that Harvard University published a study that demonstrated the contagious nature of obesity? Yep, it just goes to show ya how influential peer groups are in shaping our behavior and our bodies. Fat is like the flu; it isn’t just influenced, it’s “in-flu-enza-ed.” The study goes into the large pool of other studies that basically conclude that you’re likely to become an average of the five to ten people with whom you spend the most time.
Explains a lot. I’m convinced that your influence is enough to lead your children, your customers, your community, your employees, etc. You’re spreading your wisdom virally. The trick, it seems, is to be invited in close enough so that you can “infect” them with your influence. Watch out – you have competition.
As parents, teachers, coaches, and the like, we are concerned with peer pressures, rightfully so. Let’s think about it in this flu-like context then. First, what is peer pressure? Peer pressure is the influence a person feels from her peer group to conform and blend in with everyone else in the group. Okay, what’s peer group? Peer groups are our informal primary groups of people who share similar interests and backgrounds and with whom we feel a close bond through our perception of sameness. (Age can be a factor in similarity though not necessarily.)
Nature and Nuture
Before we get too far down the road here, let’s also consider developmental growth stages. From age 2 to about 12ish she’s most concerned with fulfilling personal needs in a very egocentric way—it’s all about me and I with little thought about the impact to others. From about 12 on, even into adulthood, she is biologically more focused on blending with a group; her need is to be accepted by her peers. This is not by choice mind you; this is the way her brain and body naturally operates. Most adults aren’t counting this intangible biological factor as they talk to their kids about peer pressure.
This leads me to believe that if we limit our thinking about peer pressure to something felt because of other people, we will limit our power of influence. We wrongly assume that our kids can avoid succumbing to peer pressure. Peer pressure is felt because our children are biologically seeking feedback so that they can blend in . . . with the people in their peer group.
Bottom Line: A kid makes choices because of two primary sources of influence:
- Her biological need to fit-in where she is
- Her social inner-circle (where she has chosen to be)
More to come
For now, just ponder this idea that peer pressure is more a biological response to development than an evil that must be vanquished. In the next post, I’ll explain this more and help expand our thinking into 3 dimensions.
Did you know?
Developmental stages mark increases in awareness? Little kids are egocentric meaning their awareness is limited to their own personal needs (regardless the impact on others.) Teens are group-centric meaning their awareness expanded to include the needs of the peer group (regardless the impact on others outside the group.) At age 20ish, we become even more aware and adopt a world-view. Now our awareness has expanded to include whole systems well beyond the boundaries of our particular group. We consider the impact our choices have on the whole system or planet.
Did you know that 75% of all adults are stuck at the developmental stage of teens? Hm… Interesting.