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Age Differences in Resistance to Peer Influence

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Prior research describes the development of susceptibility to peer pressure in adolescence as following an inverted U-shaped curve, increasing during early adolescence, peaking around age 14, and declining thereafter. This pattern, however, is derived mainly from studies that specifically examined peer pressure to engage in antisocial behavior. In the present study, age differences and developmental change in resistance to peer influence were assessed using a new self-report instrument that separates susceptibility to peer pressure from willingness to engage in antisocial activity. Data from four ethnically and socioeconomically diverse samples comprising more than 3,600 males and females between the ages of
10 and 30 were pooled from one longitudinal and two cross-sectional studies. Results show that across all demographic groups, resistance to peer influences increases linearly between ages 14 and 18. In contrast, there is little evidence for growth in this capacity between ages 10 and 14 or between 18 and 30. Middle adolescence is an especially significant period for the development of the capacity to stand up for what one believes and resist the pressures of one' s peers to do otherwise.