Conformity in Teenagers


It can be astonishing how quickly your teen goes from one set of beliefs and passions to a completely different one just days later. Most teens want to fit in with their peers, so they conform by adopting the norms among other kids their age. This can be both good and bad. Understanding teenage conformity allows parents to help their child navigate the rough waters of the teen years without compromising their values and morals.

Types of Conformity

  • First and foremost, teens want to conform with their peers. They want to feel like they are part of the popular crowd in many regards, including clothing, after-school activities, language, attitude and behavior. This need to conform often drives teens to give in to peer pressure and do things they probably wouldn't otherwise. Social conformity among teens might make them want to be like older people, perhaps a coach or co-worker. This can be beneficial if the person they want to emulate is a positive role model, but might result in behavior that isn't appropriate for a teenager.

Conformist Behavior

  • Teens try on a variety of personas during their years in high school, often based on what everyone else is doing. You might see your teen daughter begin wearing shorter shorts or bigger earrings because her friends are doing so. When she does the same, it's an effort to stay part of that crowd. Sometimes, teens make poor choices as a result of the attempt to conform. This includes experimenting with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sexual activity. Other times, conformity might involve joining the football team because the popular boys play or trying out for the school play because that's what the cool kids do, making conformity a positive force.

Effects of Conformity

  • Conforming isn't always a bad thing; however, the effects can harm your teen. Sometimes, kids join a group of peers and conform to their way of behaving and thinking as a way to identify themselves as separate from their family, according to The Psychology Career Center. This might lead them to do things that don't align with your family's values as a way to shape their own identity. On the other hand, peer pressure can have a positive influence on your teen, note child development experts at the Kids Health website. Supportive friends help your child make good choices and can expose her to new and healthy activities, such as sports or a club.

What Parents Can Do

  • If you see a sudden and dramatic shift in your teen's behavior, a discussion about what's going on might be helpful. You can discuss together what's going and what is driving his behavior so he understands how to make better decisions in the future. Or, you can encourage and support positive peer relationships so your teen is more likely to conform to the attitude and behavior of those friends. Either way, staying present in your teen's life and being ready with support and advice when your teen needs it is an effective way to help him deal with the urge to conform.


  • Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
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