Is It Naturally More Difficult For Some To Fend Off Peer Pressure Than Others?

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Peer pressure is an influence taught to avoid from a young age in school.  However, most all children and teens partake in the activities their friends are doing whether or not it is a smart idea.  But does everyone feel the same intensity of pressure?


Bruce Bower, a writer for, explains that there has been a gene variation in teens that may account for the ability to succumb to peer pressure.  Bower writes, "Teens with two copies of a short version of a gene called 5HTT" were more likely to partake in the consumption of alcohol and smoking of cigarettes than those with two long versions. describes the 5HTT gene as a transporter helping to move serotonin through the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter known to regulate emotion. writes, "individuals with the shorter variant were more likely to become depressed following environmental stress".  The environmental stress as expressed by relates back to the peer pressure Bower writes about.  Click here to see a picture of the 5HTT gene and serotonin neurotransmitter in the brain.


One viable point about this study made by other scientists is that Daw, the scientist running the study, failed to take into consideration other influences in the teen's lives.  Like we discussed in class with the "Are Wormy Kids Stupid?" lecture, there might be confounding variables in the situation.  In the peer pressure study, a confounding variable might be family income.  To publish a study, I think it is very important that all confounding variables are controlled or else the findings tend to look illegitimate. 


However, the research was proven correct through observational research. The drinking and smoking rates were higher in teens with two short 5HTT genes than those with two long 5HTT genes.  I believe these findings are very important to consider when teaching students about peer pressure.  This study shows it is necessary to help each child individually with peer pressure because it is more difficult for some to deal with than others.


The fact that serotonin is the neurotransmitter for emotion begs the question of weather or not the length of the 5HTT gene can be studied in correlation with depression.  The 5HTT gene seems like an interesting topic to study because it relates to the lives of everyone and may be an explanation for many human activities and habits.  Next time you feel like a weak person for letting your friends convince you to chug that last beer, realize that maybe it's not your fault- maybe you have two short 5HTT genes!


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1 Comment

I figured this made sense considering how our brains are all wired differently. Like I give into peer pressure way less than some of my friends do. Now I can tell them that they have shorter 5HTT genes haha. The look on their faces as they ask me what the hell I am talking about will be priceless!

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