Subcultures pressure teens to buy special products to fit in with the group.

How Does Peer Pressure Influence Teen Purchasing Choices?

by David B. Ryan

Teens buy sweets and clothing, and more than a third of teenagers spend cash on movie tickets, according to market research firm Harris Interactive. Adolescents also influence what parents buy for the family, and the total amount of influenced buying totaled $600 billion by the mid-2000s, according to the American Psychological Association. Various types of peer pressure influence teenagers to buy things, and these pressures also help shape what teens ask parents to purchase.

1. Peer Pressure

Adolescents look for social acceptance from peers, and in 2008, researchers reported in "Child Development" that this pressure to conform increases as teens grow older. Teen pressures influence purchases in a range of ways, from providing positive or negative information about a product to pushing the teenager to buy a particular item to avoid a negative reaction from friends. Young teens view buying certain goods as a simple way to gain status with peers, according to pioneer teen shopping studies published in "Adolescence," a journal devoted to medical and scientific study of the age group.

2. Branding and Marketing

Teens influenced by peer pressure purchase what friends buy, according to the American Psychological Association, and product branding and marketing give adolescents a way to quickly identify items. Branding involves placing a manufacturing logo prominently on goods. The APA claims teen groups pay attention to products, and seek out branded products as a way to have immediate prestige with friends. Companies also target teens in print, store promotions, online and television advertisements. These promotions make it easy for teens to select the advertised products that earn acceptance from peers.

3. Subcultures

Skateboarders, tech fans, surfers, athletes and music fans want to fit in with their subculture, and groups select products and services as a path to peer acceptance. Board shorts with the logo of a famous surfer or drumsticks endorsed by a popular drummer may cause others in the clique or group to be envious and desire the same items. Some of the things that define subcultures, according to Freddie Lee, professor of business and marketing at California State University, Los Angeles, have a foundation in consumerism. Teens need certain things to belong to a certain subculture, like a skateboard, musical instrument, bicycle, computer or surfboard. That need opens the door to peer pressure -- teens may want to buy goods that other members of the group value.

4. Sound Choices

Adults can help teens avoid peer pressure to buy by sitting down to chat about consumerism and the urge to buy the products touted by advertisers and teen friends. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation recommends adults model sensible buying habits by avoiding fad buying and impulse purchases. An easy way to limit spending is to set up a budget that includes some cash for items peer groups enjoy, but places a cap on the monthly spending total. Parents can also use this budget as a way to encourage responsible behavior by requiring teens to earn money by doing small jobs around the neighborhood to buy popular products, according to clinical therapist David M. Benson. Long-term goals, such as saving for college, car or personal computer, help teens focus on a tangible spending goal that can help them avoid peer buying pressures.

About the Author

David B. Ryan has been a professional writer since 1989. His work includes various books, articles for "The Plain Dealer" in Cleveland and essays for Oxford University Press. Ryan holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Indiana University and certifications in emergency management and health disaster response.

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