Peer influences may also push youth toward drug use and other detrimental behaviors. In a study of students in grades 6 through 12 (N=1,340), Dielman, Shope, and Butchart (1990) find a stronger direct correlation between peer influences and students' alcohol use than parental influences and students' alcohol use. A study by Lewis and Lewis (1984) indicates that peer pressures to engage in risk-taking behaviors (e.g., fights, "daredevil" stunts, stealing, drug use, sexual acts) increase as children enter adolescence, while the levels of resistance to peer pressure may decline.
Positive peer influences. Peer pressures are not always detrimental. Similar to adults, adolescents respond in varying ways to the stresses and opportunities they perceive in their environment (Ianni, 1989). If young people see value in academic success, peer pressures may encourage academic effort. Seeing peers successfully tackle classroom assignments may bolster children's confidence in their own abilities (Schunk and Hanson, 1985). Peers may also buffer stresses, providing crucial emotional support for troubled youth (Stanley and Barter, 1970). Instead of searching for ways to minimize peer influences, it may be useful to study ways of encouraging and building upon the positive aspects of peer cohesiveness and mutual support. When schools fail to build peer support for academic success, the ostracization of high achievers may cause psychosocial harm (Fordham, 1988). Withdrawn, isolated young people are not as conspicuously in danger as gang members, but they may be just as much at risk of self-destructive behavior.