How Much Do Friends Affect Teen Behavior?

As a child reaches her teens, you might find her experimenting with new things and behaving differently. Much of this behavior comes from her friend's actions, as children of this age feel the need to fit in with a group. Through this peer pressure, behavioral problems can arise, especially if your teen falls in with a less desirable core of friends.

Risky Behavior

Teens tend to make riskier decisions when a peer watches the decision making process. The presence of a peer can activate reward circuitry in the brain, which makes teens act in a riskier fashion. These peers do not necessarily have to convince a teen to act in a riskier fashion, as their mere presence can change the mindset of a teen. These patterns do not exist in adults, meaning that the adult brain can filter out this reward circuitry from the decision making process.

Peer Acceptance

Many teens go through a stage of moral reasoning where their opinions of themselves come from what others think. This outer-directed behavior can change the way a teen acts, since he gets his image of himself from his friends. At this stage of life, a teen might start experimenting with drinking, drugs and sex because of this pressure to conform to what others do. Your teen might start acting like everyone else, even if everyone else's behavior goes against the morals that a parent has instilled in a teen.

Sex Pressure

Sexual pressure exists everywhere in a teen's life and can cause her to go against her own moral code. This pressure comes in both direct and indirect forms, as even if a teen's friends do not put direct pressure on her, she still knows about her friends' sex lives and wants to conform. In some cases, conforming to everyone else's actions becomes more important than what the teen truly wants to do. Some teens even lie about having sex, as it helps them feel a part of the group. Conforming at this young of an age, however, can lead to problems dealing with pressure from others later on in life.

Positive Behavioral Change

Friends can have a positive influence on a teen's life, especially if that friend has a commitment to succeeding. Two friends who spend frequent time together can push each other toward academic and sports-related goals, making both of them more successful. Having positive friends in a teen's life can also provide feedback when an individual makes a bad decision in life. The encouragement and social skills acquired through a solid network of friends teaches young people how to act in social situations, which sets them up well for adulthood.