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Cheating – Sex – Alcohol: Is Peer-Pressure to Blame?

We are all familiar with Google. We are all led to believe that what Google hits have to say are true. When Googling the term “peer pressure,” the first things that come up are advice about warning signs that parents should be looking for if their teens are doing things they shouldn’t, like cheating, drugs or alcohol. This might make parents believe peer-pressure is a major issue among teens, but know your sources, and their credibility.  Despite the publicity that peer-pressure gets as the reason for bad behavior, a Dog Times survey of 200 Washington students suggests teens are not getting pressured to do anything, those are just their decisions. Their choices appear to be made independently, if poorly.  A large majority of students, 72%, also felt that they had not crossed any moral boundaries that they had set for themselves because of peer-pressure.

Parents and teachers may need to realize that saying “I’m getting peer-pressured” is most likely a cover-up that teenagers use to explain certain actions.  Peer pressure does exist, but it is not the reason for student’s decision as often as parents might assume. The chart below lists all the results from the surveys. Students gave a 50/50 response when asked, “Do you ever feel as if the people you’re around are a bad influence?” But when asked: “Do you ever feel forced to make some decisions just because others in your group are doing the same?” Seventy-four percent answered “no,” suggesting that they didn’t feel pressured to go along with the group or that they were forced to do something.


A junior at Washington campus (who asked to remain anonymous) says the first time he smoked was because he “wanted to try it.” He was 15 years old when he first started. Does he continue to do it?  “Yes, it’s going to be three years now, and no, I’m not going to stop.” Thirty-three percent of the students surveyed said they smoked for the first time because they wanted to.  Only 14% felt friends pressured them to do it; and only 11% did it because “everyone’s doing it.”

When peer pressure does occur, it’s usually done by the group of people you’re hanging around with, your “friends.”  Getting betrayed by a friend is not the best feeling in the world, but clearly most of those surveyed had gone through it: 64% of students said they’d been betrayed by someone they thought was their friend. “I saw a girl get pressured into sex by her friends, [and] I think that’s very wrong because only that person [should] decide what they want to do and when they want to do it,” says Perla Vega, a Washington junior.

Peer Pressure Survey

Respondents by grade:

9th 19%       10th 26%       11th 24%      12th 24%

Have you ever been pressured to participate in an activity you didn’t want to take part in.

If so, what was the activity?  (Circle as many that apply)

Sex18%       Smoking37%       Alcohol26%

cheating28%           stealing16%       drugs24%        other19%

3). Did you smoke for the first time because you wanted to, or because you were pressured to do it by friends, or others?

I wanted to 33%              My friends pressured me14%     Everyone’s doing it 11%    N/A 42%

4). Do you feel you are forced to make some decisions just because others in your group are doing the same?

yes 26%                          no74%

5). Do you ever feel as if the people you’re around are a bad influence?  Yes 50%  No 50%

6). Have you ever been betrayed by someone you thought was your friend?  Yes 64%  No 31%  No Answer 5%

7). Have you yourself ever peer-pressured someone? yes  24%                        no 45%               don’t think so 31%

8). If you pressure someone, was that person a friend?

yes 25%          no 21%       N/A 54%

9). Have you crossed any moral boundaries that you had set for yourself because of peers?  Yes  28%  No 72%

–Jocelyne Nunez, Washington junior






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