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A guide to realizing if

your child is at-risk, displaying 

self-destructive behaviors, and

needs your help and intervention.



 Struggling Teens

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Learn more how Total Transformation, an at-home program for parents, can help your troubled or struggling teen and heal your family



Is my teen's BEHAVIOR just normal teenage rebellion?




What do parents and teachers need to know about BULLYING?


Help!  My teen is a RUNAWAY


What is 'normal' teen SEXUAL BEHAVIOR and what is cause for concern?


Where can I find a reliable ALCOHOL & DRUG TESTING KIT?










Your Teen's Friends

Peer Influence & Peer Relationships


Positive Peer Pressure  -  Negative Peer Pressure

Encourage Positive & Healthy Relationships  -  When Parents Don't Approve

More Information on Peer Relationships


Everyone needs to belong — to feel connected with others and be with others who share attitudes, interests, and circumstances that resemble their own.  People choose friends who accept and like them and see them in a favorable light.





Teens want to be with people their own age — their peers.  During adolescence, teens spend more time with their peers and without parental supervision.  With peers, teens can be both connected and independent, as they break away from their parents' images of them and develop identities of their own.


While many families help teens in feeling proud and confident of their unique traits, backgrounds, and abilities, peers are often more accepting of the feelings, thoughts, and actions associated with the teen's search for self-identity.


The influence of peers — whether positive or negative — is of critical importance in your teen's life.  Whether you like it or not, the opinions of your child's peers often carry more weight than yours.


Positive Peer Pressure


The ability to develop healthy friendships and peer relationships depends on a teen's self-identity, self-esteem, and self-reliance.


At its best, peer pressure can mobilize your teen's energy, motivate for success, and encourage your teen to conform to healthy behavior.  Peers can and do act as positive role models.  Peers can and do demonstrate appropriate social behaviors.  Peers often listen to, accept, and understand the frustrations, challenges, and concerns associated with being a teenager.


Negative Peer Pressure


The need for acceptance, approval, and belonging is vital during the teen years. Teens who feel isolated or rejected by their peers  — or in their family — are more likely to engage in risky behaviors in order to fit in with a group.  In such situations, peer pressure can impair good judgment and fuel risk-taking behavior, drawing a teen away from the family and positive influences and luring into dangerous activities.


For example, teens with ADHD, learning differences or disabilities are often rejected due to their age-inappropriate behavior, and thus are more likely to associate with other rejected and/or delinquent peers.  Some experts believe that teenage girls frequently enter into sexual relationships when what they are seeking is acceptance, approval, and love.


A powerful negative peer influence can motivate a teen to make choices and engage in behavior that his or her values might otherwise reject.  Some teens will risk being grounded, losing their parents' trust, or even facing jail time, just to try and fit in or feel like they have a group of friends they can identify with and who accept them.  Sometimes, teens will change the way they dress, their friends, give up their values or create new ones, depending on the people they hang around with.


Some teens harbor secret lives governed by the influence of their peers.  Some — including those who appear to be well-behaved, high-achieving teens when they are with adults — engage in negative, even dangerous behavior when with their peers. 


Once influenced, teens may continue the slide into problems with the law, substance abuse, school problems, authority defiance, gang involvement, etc.


If your teen associates with people who are using drugs or displaying self-destructive behaviors, then your child is probably doing the same.


Encourage Healthy and Positive Relationships


It is important to encourage friendships among teens.  We all want our children to be with persons who will have a positive influence, and stay away from persons who will encourage or  engage in harmful, destructive, immoral, or illegal activities.


Parents can support positive peer relationships by giving their teenagers their love, time, boundaries, and encouragement to think for themselves.


Specifically, parents can show support by:

  • Having a positive relationship with your teen.  When parent-teen interactions are characterized by warmth, kindness, consistency, respect, and love, the relationship will flourish, as will the teen's self-esteem, mental health, spirituality, and social skills.

  • Being genuinely interested in your teen's activities.  This allows parents to know their teen's friends and to monitor behavior, which is crucial in keeping teens out of trouble.  When misbehavior does occur, parents who have involved their children in setting family rules and consequences can expect less flack from their children as they calmly enforce the rules.  Parents who, together with their children, set firm boundaries and high expectations may find that their children's abilities to live up to those expectations grow.

  • Encouraging independent thought and expression.  In this way, teens can develop a healthy sense of self and an enhanced ability to resist peer pressure.

When Parents Don't Approve

You may not be comfortable about your son or daughter's choice of friends or peer group.  This may be because of their image, negative attitudes, or serious behaviors (such as alcohol use, drug use, truancy, violence, sexual behaviors).


Here are some suggestions:

  • Get to know the friends of your teen.  Learn their names, invite them into your home so you can talk and listen to them, and introduce yourself to their parents.

  • Do not attack your child's friends.  Remember that criticizing your teen's choice of friends is like a personal attack.

  • Help your teen understand the difference between image (expressions of youth culture) and identity (who he or she is).

  • Keep the lines of communication open and find out why these friends are important to your teenager.

  • Check whether your concerns about their friends are real and important.

  • If you believe your concerns are serious, talk to your teenager about behavior and choices -- not the friends.

  • Encourage your teen's independence by supporting decision-making based on principles and not other people.

  • Let your teen know of your concerns and feelings.

  • Encourage reflective thinking by helping your teen think about his or her actions in advance and discussing immediate and long-term consequences of risky behavior.

  • Remember that we all learn valuable lessons from mistakes.

No matter what kind of peer influence your teen faces, he or she must learn how to balance the value of going along with the crowd (connection) against the importance of making principle-based decisions (independence)


And you must ensure that your teen knows that he or she is loved and valued as an individual at home.



Read All The Books


People Will Talk: The Surprising Science of Reputation

by John Whitfield

Click here for KINDLE EDITION

Balancing nature and nurture, Whitfield explores the universal goal of creating — and maintaining — an admirable reputation and gives practical strategies for building trust, credibility, and integrity.


Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential - and Endangered

by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz

Click here for KINDLE EDITION


More Information on Peer Relationships


Adolescents with High-Risk Sexual Attitudes Attract Peers with Similar Attitude ~ High-risk sexual behavior in adolescents appears to be influenced by the sexual attitudes of peers, and young people select friends whose attitudes about sex are consistent with their own attitudes.


Adolescents and Peer Pressure ~ Teenagers have various peer relationships, and they interact with many peer groups.  Some kids give in to peer pressure because they want to be liked, to fit in, or because they worry that other kids may make fun of them if they don't go along with the group.  Others may go along because they are curious to try something new that others are doing.  The idea that "everyone's doing it" may influence some kids to leave their better judgment, or their common sense, behind.  While parents can't protect their children from experiencing peer pressure, there are steps they can take to minimize its effects.


Confusion or Clarity? Youth Culture at the Crossroads ~ If we care about kids, where they are, and where they're headed, we've got to look with them at the signposts that are catching their attention and leading them along in life.  They serve as signposts for us as well, pointing the way to a land of crisis that is in desperate need of spiritual relief aid.  Here are three troubling signposts -- all getting bigger, increasingly attractive, and more effective by the minute.


Emotional and Social Development Between Ages 15 and 18 ~ In a natural step from childhood to adulthood, teens begin to seek intimate relationships, which become an important part of their identity. Some teens' emotional investment in such relationships is immense, which makes them vulnerable. Parents can help by recognizing when relationships are getting more intense and by talking openly, without judgment, about the possible future effects.


Escaping or connecting?  Characteristics of youth who form close online relationships ~ In this study, girls who had high levels of conflict with parents or were highly troubled were more likely to have close online relationships, as were boys who had low levels of communication with parents or were highly troubled.


Friendships, Peer Influence and Peer Pressure During the Teen Years (pdf) ~ Friendships are very much an important aspect of the teen years. Understanding the nature of peer influence can help support youth as they enter into this period and follow the path towards close friendships that are hallmarks of adolescence.


In High School, Groups Provide Identity ~ Cliques and clubs have defined school days for decades, providing a framework for friendships and prom dates and booked weekends.  But for parents, such groups have always seemed alien, and counselors worry that the maze allows troubled children to mask loneliness and disaffection.


Influential Friends ~ Advice on assessing peer influence and how to address concerns about friends with your teen.


Is Your Teen on the Fringe? ~ Teens on the fringe feel like they don't fit in.  They move away from the comfort of childhood friendships with hopes of joining ranks with a difficult-to-penetrate new circle of friends (e.g., cheerleaders, football team, popular kids).  This can leave kids in limbo, lacking significant friendships and feeling a deep sense of loneliness.  Those feelings can leave kids vulnerable to high-risk behavior, such as drug use, sexual activity, or petty crime, which they perceive as their ticket to acceptance.


Peer Pressure and Risky Behavior ~ Teens choose their friends, because of similar interests, or to make themselves more popular. Their peers influence issues such as style and activities-the focus is on fitting in. Before deciding to do something, teens often ask themselves, "what will my friends think?" This does not mean their decisions are stupid. It means that there is a trade-off between doing what one knows is right, and being accepted by peers.


The Power of Peers ~ Based on research findings, there are ways for parents and other adults to accentuate the positive roles that peers play in their children's lives, while at the same time remaining vigilant about the harmful effects that some high-risk friends can have.


Teen Peer Pressure:  Raising a Peer-Pressure-Proof Child ~ Learn what kinds of peer pressure teens face, who’s most vulnerable, and how to help your son or daughter resist.


Teens More Vulnerable to Peer Influences from Popular, Well-Liked Classmates ~ In this study, researchers found that teens were particularly likely to say they would engage in aggressive and risky behaviors if they believed they were in a chat room with highly popular/liked adolescents who endorsed such behaviors.  They also privately internalized the aggressive and risky attitudes of highly popular/liked peers, endorsing these attitudes even when their responses were no longer visible to others.


Teens must resist the lure of a pack instinct ~ In the face of peer pressure, saying no to bullying and other abusive and violent acts demands courage.  The opposite of courage is conformity.



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