The Science of Peer Pressure

Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge Looks at the Science of Peer Pressure

 The Science of Peer PressureAt Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge, our programs for troubled teens have been specially developed for boys ages 12-17. We encourage them to cope with everyday life issues, as well as their struggle with addiction.Here at Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge, we understand that teens can be especially sensitive to peer influence and pressure. While some peer influence can be positive, it can also play a very damaging role in the life of a teen. Peer pressure can encourage a teen to take those first steps down the path of substance abuse and addiction. Is our brain wired to be susceptible to peer pressure? In today’s blog, Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge looks at the science behind peer pressure.

Decision Making and the Brain

When you are faced with a decision, different parts of the brain engage. The limbic system generates an emotional response, and the prefrontal cortex produces rational thinking. During this process, you are quickly and unconsciously calculating the rewards and costs of your action. If you do the calculation and determine the potential rewards of an action outweigh the cost, you will typically act accordingly.

Decision Making and the Teen Brain

The above decision-making process occurs naturally in humans throughout their lives. But during teen years, the brain has unique characteristics that impact the calculation. One reason for the difference in teen decision making is a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine helps transmit signals in the brain that help people feel happy. The number of brain receptors interacting with dopamine is higher in adolescence than at any other time of life.This means that when a teen is exposed to a reward, like peer acceptance, the reward center reacts more strongly than it does in an adult or young child. This helps explain why teens will sometimes do things with friends that they would never do alone. Sometimes peer pressure can be positive, leading teens to do good things like trying out for basketball. Other times it can lead to dangerous situations like drug and alcohol abuse.Studies have also shown that when the reward center is activated by one kind of reward, it makes us seek other kinds of rewards as well. The developing teen brain may not differentiate whether these rewards will ultimately have a positive or negative impact on their future.

Reach Out to Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge

If your teenage son is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, contact Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge about our Christian programs for troubled teens. At Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge, boys ages 12-17 can get the help they need to live sober, productive, faith-based lives.
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