Monday, August 5, 2013

Peer Pressure, its Cultural Patterning and Social Control

Individual differ greatly in their degree of sociability. Some belong to more groups than others. Some participate more than others in the groups which they belong. In fact, it is unimaginable to lead a comfortable life in isolation. Human associative life is the foundation for a society and nation. Peer group is one of the primary groups in human associative life. We cannot remain uninfluenced from the by the lifestyle, attitude, behavior, and norms of our peers. The degree of influence which compels us to follow group behavior or group norms is called peer pressure or group pressure. We often find ourselves helpless
before this group pressure and tend to change our attitude, behavior, opinion, choices and priorities according to the peer group norms and culture.

Group pressure tends to cut off extreme deviates in individual behavior of the person who joins that group. As the human groups are cultural groups, the removal of extreme deviates needs to be qualified somewhat. The group pressure thus operates through folkways and mores. So the extreme deviations from the average are permitted and may even be encouraged, if they are in approved direction. For example, in a group of animal lovers, an individual with more pets may be encouraged and favored. The others who have extreme deviation from the average; who have extremely deviated opinion about animal keeping are cut off from the group.

The cultural variations in various societies mean that a particular type of personality deviate may be condemned in one place and honored in another.  For example in Pakistani rural areas, a woman, who is reticent in the company of men, is regarded favorable and esteemed well. Where as in American society, such woman may be criticized and regarded unfavorable. Group pressure is linked to the cultural variations that an individual brings with him/her.  It means that the group norms and values may differ from culture to culture based upon the widespread social values and norms. Deviant groups may not encourage a member who is in the favor of observing widespread socially desired values and norms. This group would have its own norms, culture and values. However greatly these value may differ from the widespread culture, these will be made observed within that deviant group and will be considered normal acts

The intensity of group pressure varies from group to group based on the prevalent cultural values. For example, in a highly traditional society, there might be no flexibility for individual behavior. The importance of individual act may not be considered in group life. Similarly in modern and innovative societies, group pressure may be of low intensity; the group may encourage some individually generated ideas and roles. So, the group pressure is closely linked with the type of group and the culture in which this group exists.
It also notable that peer groups are often formed on the basis of shared cultural norms and values. For example some boys staying at the same hostel, having the same age, belonging to the same geographical area, having the same language and traditions may associate themselves with one another forming a peer group.

"Birds of feather flock together” is a rule which is generally observed while forming groups.

A society itself exerts a type of pressure in order to maintain order and established rules in its organized group life. This pattern of pressure is called social control. As the society tends to maintain discipline, it sets some desired patterns of behavior and discourages some other type of human conduct. So it is to be said that society itself cuts off the extreme variations to the average. The situation where socially desired conduct is highly observed and practiced is called social control.

The members of peer group are closely identified with one another. They are sensitive to one another’s opinion; they seek to win group approval and to avoid group disapproval.

So the group as a whole is the best of disciplinarians. Group may apply more effective control over the conduct of its members than any other outside authority. For example, if a young girl who has problematic conduct in her family; she often fails to For example, if a young girl who has problematic conduct in her family; she often fails to respect her elders; she is rude towards her parents; she is obstinate; may be behaving normally with her school mates. It is because of the pressure of her school mats group. She cannot be favored with her such behavior as she exhibit at her home.

Social pressure is a source of social control. It cuts off extreme variations from the average. It tends to make sure that all members of peer group are doing with the conformity of group values and norms. So the functions of peer pressure are parallel to those of a social sanction. Basically peer pressure is a name of a sanction which keeps the members of a group on track towards desired direction.

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Cooley, C. H. Social Organization. New York. 1909
Ross, E. A. Social Control. New York. 1901.
Bernard, L. L. Social Control. New York. 1939.
Ogburn W. F. A Handbook of Sociology.  London 1953
"Dealing with Peer Pressure" in Kids Health. Retrieved from

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