Identity Formation: A Way Out of Peer Pressure



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Let’s make an assumption. Suppose you were taking a class, your teacher asks a question and waits for answers. Many classmates around you have got their answers. But their answers were absolutely different from yours. When the teacher asks for your answer,  would you keep your opinion or change your answer to what your classmates said?

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Maybe you would change your answer, instead of insisting your own opinion. This phenomenon is truly common around us, especially among teenagers. People give up their belief   and their judgements or even make choices against their own will. This phenomenon is caused by peer pressure.It is common for teenagers to experience peer pressure.

My project aims to empower you to deal with peer pressure appropriately.

Understanding Peer Pressure

“Peer pressure is the influence you feel from a person or group of people to do something you might not otherwise consider doing.”

Why do people give in to peer pressure?

The desire to fit-in lead teenagers to give in to peer pressure. When people join a new group, they wanted to get along with others. So they do what other people think they should do, and try to live up to other people’s expectations. Indeed, peer pressure is very common among teenagers between the age of 15-18 years old.

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sychological theories can help us understand and overcome peer pressure. Below is a chart summarizes Erik Erikson’s theory about the progression of humans’ psychosocial development. It is a comprehensive psychoanalytic theory that identifies eight stages of mental development that every person experiences.


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According to the charts, we can find out that adolescence is a critical time for identity formation. During this time, teenagers associate with peers more than families.

Understanding Personal Identity and Identity Formation

Many adolescents begin asking the question “ who am I” when they begin to form personal identity. They want to become independent from their families and gain autonomy. They begin to pull away  from their parents yet still needs a  place in society. Peer group
s provides a sense of belonging as well as a space for exploring topics such as education, occupation, politics, value, etc.. Although identity development begins during the teenage years, it can be a life-long journey. People’s       understanding of themselves change when they encounter major life events.

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This period of exploration can often be quite messy and confusing for teens, as they try on different personalities. This video captures the struggle elegantly:

Coming out the other side, people who succeed in forming a strong positive personal identity will feel more confident, because they have a clear direction of who they are and how they should operate in society.

On the other hand, the people who leave adolescence with a negative personal identity or role confusion will not know clearly about who they are. In this way, their life is filled with doubts, pointlessness.

Forming a strong personal identity is important for people’s life.

Focusing on personal identity formation

Forming a strong positive personal identity will help teenagers overcome peer pressure. Dr. Rachel Sumner from Cornell University suggested that you do the following things to facilitate personal identity formation:

If you are a teenager:

“Psychological studies show that there are two processes involved in identity development: exploration and commitment. You can try things like:

  • Hanging out with a new group of friends
  • Trying new activities
  • Learning more about something that interests you
  • Through these explorations, you might find aspects of your identity that you would like
    to commit to. Such commitment is beneficial as it will lead you to experience more self-esteem and less depression or anxiety.

If you are a parent or a teacher, you can:  

  • Be a role model or help your teenager look for role models in their family, schools or community. It will help them imagine different possibilities for their future self.
  • Talk with your teenager about values, goals, and identities. They may be interested to know how you made decisions about the kind of person you want to be.
  • Try to support commitments that have been made. Identity commitments can help someone feel grounded and less confused while they engage in identity exploration.”

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