Peer pressure reaches a peak during the eighth or ninth grade, according to the University of Minnesota Extension program, but some teens feel pressures through high school. Teenagers feel a need to be accepted by peers and want to be part of the greater teen community. Teens failing to join mainstream peer groups sometimes join groups of other teens also ostracized by peers. Peer pressure generally polarizes around issues facing teens during the middle and high school grades.
Male and female teens living in both urban and suburban areas join gangs as an act of rebellion. Some teenagers, however, join gangs as a result of peer pressure and the need for social acceptance. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that for some teens, gangs provide a group of friends interested in promoting camaraderie, and not a peer group for violence and illegal activity. The AAP recommends parents look for the warning signs of gang involvement for early intervention. Signs include a lack of interest in school and family, new tattoos, focus on new clothing of one color, new friendships and secrecy about activities and movements. The University of Nevada Reno Cooperative Extension encourages membership in organized groups dedicated to positive behavior, including the YMCA, organized sports and church activities, all of which give the adolescent an alternative to gang activities.
Peers pressure some teens to use and abuse alcohol, tobacco and medical prescriptions, and this pressure also encourages adolescents to use illegal drugs. Colorado State University Family Education, Resources and Training recommends empowering teens to make healthy decisions by exploring the consequences of negative peer pressure before friends push the teen into poor decisions involving drugs.
The development of self-image happens during the teen years, and peer pressure influences adolescent eating habits. This sometimes creates an overemphasis on dieting for some teenagers, according to the Women's and Children's Health Network. The network also notes peer pressure for some adolescents involved in body building encourages harmful activities in the pursuit of a body that matches artificial or popular media standards. Helping teens build self-confidence about body type creates a counter to peer pressure.
The University of Minnesota Extension notes teenagers and parents frequently disagree over the degree of independence given to teens. Peers compare parenting practices, and teens with strict controls over their actions sometimes feel pressures to rebel against the adult controls over their lives. Some peer groups encourage teens with strict home rules to act out against the restrictions. Involving teens in the discussions about behavior and allowing teens to participate in establishing standards reduces the potential for peer pressure that works against parental influence, according to Pearson Education's FamilyEducation.com.