The Influence of Social Desirability on Adolescents

During adolescence, the need to be accepted by a group becomes more intense. With that in mind, we want to talk about the influence of social desirability on adolescents.
The Influence of Social Desirability on Adolescents

Last update: 02 September, 2020

Do you remember being a teenager? What was your biggest worry? More than likely, one of your greatest concerns was being part of a group, feeling accepted, valued, and recognized by your peers. All of us, to one degree or another, feel pressured to adapt to what others expect of us. However, in adolescents, the desire to fit in can lead to behaviors that are improper or inadequate. Today we’ll take a closer look at the influence of social desirability on adolescents.

That’s because, during this developmental stage, children’s immaturity and their fervent desire to belong come together. Therefore, they may adopt behaviors that are very out of character which they don’t even want to take part in. Why? In order to portray a certain image for their peers.

So, it’s important to instill strong values and conviction from the time children are young in order to safeguard them from peer pressureIn the same way, families can work as guides in order to help youth overcome this difficult stage. Let’s see how.

A group of teenagers.

Social desirability is something natural

Social desirability consists of attributing positive qualities to ourselves and rejecting those qualities that are negative. So, we put off a biased image of ourselves. We try to show and highlight our greatest qualities and pretend not to possess those that are socially sanctioned.

However, social desirability is part of our human nature and is fundamental to living in society. If we don’t care about pleasing others to some degree, or share certain values, then we can never get along.

So, social desirability is present throughout our entire lives. Children try to please their parents because they depend on them for survival. However, it’s also because parental attention and recognition is gratifying. However, the influence of social desirability changes and becomes much greater during adolescence.

Adolescence and peer groups

When young people reach puberty, an important transformation takes place in their psychological dynamic. During this stage, they begin to seek out and establish their own identity. And this means progressively distancing themselves from their family and placing more and more importance on their peer group.

Therefore, friends and classmates of the same age emerge as their main reference points. The opinions of their parents are no longer as relevant. In fact, they tend to contradict them by nature in search of their own independence. However, acceptance by a peer group becomes an adolescent’s main concern.

This isn’t a major problem as long as the new reference group shares society’s common interests. And, of course, as long as a child’s need for acceptance is moderate. However, in some cases, the values of the group may come into conflict with the values and personality of the child.

And this is when adolescents must make an important decision. Either they can change who they are to fit in, or they can remain faithful to their principles and risk rejection. This decision is anything but simple during the delicate stage of adolescence.

Peer pressure and alcohol.

How to help teenagers handle the influence of social desirability

As we mentioned, it’s not a matter of eliminating social desirability, as this is normal and healthy to a certain degree. However, we need to make sure it remains at a positive level. So, from the time our children are small, we need to work on issues like autonomy, self-esteem, and self-confidenceThis solid foundation will allow them, as adolescents, to face peer pressure in a much healthier and simpler way.

In the same way, it’s been proven that youth with social anxiety have an even more intense need for approval and fear of rejection. Therefore, they’re more susceptible to falling into inappropriate behaviors that have nothing to do with their personality. For this reason, it’s important to treat this disorder.

Finally, the characteristics of a peer group, which is a teenager’s reference point, is also very relevant. It’s important for our children to be able to choose their friends wisely. That’s because their choices will impact, to a greater or lesser degree, their own development. It’s one thing to become part of a group that values sports… But being part of a group that values drinking is a completely different story.

In short, it’s a matter of educating children from the time they’re young, instilling good values and the self-confidence they need to make good decisions. That way, as teens, they’ll be able to choose their friends according to their own value and stand firm against peer pressure.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Fisher, G. M., & Kramer, R. A. (1963). The relation of the Marlowe-Crowne social desirability scale to the Cattell Anxiety Scale. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 19(2), 204–205.<204::AID-JCLP2270190217>3.0.CO;2-S
  • Rosiles, F. P., López, E. M. H., & Padros, F. (2014). Estudio comparativo de los niveles de deseabilidad social en adolescentes con y sin trastorno disocial. Revista de Psicopatología y salud mental del niño y del adolescente, (23), 61-66.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.