Remember “peer pressure”? Of late it has been largely discarded as the go-to means of explaining/demonizing youth behavioral patterns, but The New Inquiry offers a look back:
Parents have mostly given up on peer pressure as a paradigm defining element of molding their teenagers. Adults now do not believe in peer pressure so much as media pressure (“Miley Cyrus made my daughter a pot-smoking slut” instead of “Peer pressure made my daughter a pot-smoking slut”) or technological pressure (“My son doesn’t get any sleep because he stays up all night texting his friends”), fully embracing the awful politics of moral panics that dominated generational relations for the entire second half of the 20th century.
But what parents and educators so often labeled as peer pressure was actually the disease-like spread of ideas. It’s a degree of symbolic freedom and movement that made adults uncomfortable. The truly horrible things that happen to teenage lives are more the result of socioeconomic reality (gang violence), the failure of the mental health state (drugs, alcohol, shooting up the school), the horrific patriarchy of larger adult society (rape), or the all-around idiotic idea of the “school” as we construct it than they ever are the sole province of a teens en masse fearing social rejection.