“Be who you are and say what you feel,
because those who mind don’t matter
and those who matter don’t mind.” —Dr. Seuss
Since school age children are experiencing peer pressure, what does it look like? You may hear a child say, “If you’re my friend, you’ll play this game with me,” or “I’m mad at _______, so don’t talk to her.” Peers may pressure a child to ride their bikes too far from home or play with a gun. They may think it is funny to cut people out of the group or make fun of someone for any number of reasons. (1)
Positive Peer Pressure
But peer pressure isn’t all negative. Dr. Melanie Killen, a developmental psychologist at the University of Maryland found, “The emergence of peer groups in elementary school also aids children’s development by providing positive friendships, relationships, and social support.” (2)
Children ages 5 to 8 make a concerted effort to please their friends, classmates, and playmates, which is one reason this age can be so enjoyable. A positive aspect of peer pressure is that they can encourage each other to strive to do better in school, sports and creative activities. On the other hand, if the child acts in a way that is not natural for the child, this can be negative peer pressure. (3)
Why Children Give In
The reasons school-age children give in to peer pressure aren’t much different than the reasons adolescents or even adults fall into peer pressure. They want to be liked and fit in. And who doesn’t want that? They worry that others kids may make fun of them. Perhaps the child is simply curious and wants to try something new.
The common saying, “Everyone’s doing it,” influences some kids to ignore their better judgment or their common sense. (3) The child may be trying to figure out who he is by experimenting with his identity. (4) Parents may observe their child changing hair styles or hair color and wearing different clothing styles.
It is important for parents to be aware of what peer pressure looks like for school age children and remember that peer pressure can have many positive aspects. As you help your child develop socially, remember the reasons that they may fall into peer pressure.
1. Peer Proofing Your Child-Teen, Part 5, By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT, 2006, www.familiesonlinemagazne.com/peerpressure/peerproofing5.html. .
2. Younger Than You Think: Peer Pressure Begins in Elementary School, Rick Nauert, Ph.D., June 6, 2013, www.psychcentral.com.
3. Children’s Health: Peer Pressure, www.healthofchildren.com.
4. The Influence of Peer Pressure: Help Your Child Navigate Through Peer Pressure, Gwen Morrison, family.go.com.
5. Image: Helping Friends [thenounproject.com]