EAL – AT1 – ALS_Written Report – Nguyễn Thuỳ Linh (SACE khoá 4)

How does peer pressure affect the purchasing decision of adolescents in Hanoi?

I. Abstract

Adolescents tend to think they are rational when making decisions, yet when purchasing there are certain people adolescents are pressured to follow their trend and standard. This is called reference groups. This group exerts pressure that influences adolescents’ purchasing behaviors. The hypothesis is that peer pressure significantly influences the purchasing decisions of early and middle adolescents in Hanoi, especially stronger in informational influence. Additionally, early adolescents are reported to be more susceptible to peer pressure compared to middle adolescents. The study utilized both primary research from a total of 87 Vietnamese adolescents and appropriate secondary research to provide a clear analysis and a logical explanation for this topic.

II. Introduction 

Imagine you are going shopping with friends then you see an adorable pink shirt which you intended to buy but your friends say that it is ugly, the purple was better. Inwardly, you do not really like it, yet you still agree with them and buy the purple one because you do not want to go against the crowd. What you are experiencing is called peer pressure. 

In fact, peer pressure has been considered to be the hallmark of the minor (Brown, 2004). Positive peer pressure may lead to positive purchasing decisions, while negative peer pressure will produce negative outcomes. However, one interesting thing is that peer pressure will always lead to purchasing (Gulati, 2017).

This research paper, which utilizes both primary and secondary research, aims to study how peer pressure has an impact on the purchasing decision among early and middle adolescents in Hanoi and how age increase or decrease the susceptibilities to peer pressure 

III. Literature review

Peer pressure is generally conceptualized as a direct or indirect influence that motivates peers, observers, and individuals to conform to the group as socially acceptable manners by adjusting their attitudes, values, or actions. (Gulati, 2017). A broader concept is that any influence exerted from peer groups is part of peer pressure’s characteristics (Manzoni and Lotar, 2011, p.1). Peer pressure also appears whenever an adolescent’s action is served to gain acceptance and avoid assessment from peers (Manzoni and Lotar, 2011, p.2). 

Several studies aim to separate peer pressure and peer influence definition. A work from Manzoni and Lotar concluded that peer pressure is just one part of peer influence (2011, p.2). Correlatively, peer influence, which is defined as an influence peer has on an individual’s attitudes, beliefs, and behavior (Makgosa and Mohube, 2007, p.65), is determined to be the premise that leads to later peer pressure (Chang and Nguyen, 2018, p.222).

Such people who exert pressure on adolescents are called reference groups. There are 2 types of reference groups. Parents, teachers, and peers who directly impact youngsters called normative groups. In contrast, comparative reference groups, representatives of heroes, sport, or entertainment figures, do not have direct interaction (1992, p.199). 

There are three types of influence created by reference groups. Informational influence is when people seek guidelines from people with high credibility to make decisions when they are in an uninformed situation. Utilitarian influence occurs when people comply with group standards to gain rewards or avoid punishment. Value-expressive influence simply means people enhance their identification and gain approval by association with a particular group that represents desirable value (Bearden and Etzel, 2001, p.184; Leijer, 2010).

IV. The importance of peer pressure in purchasing

It has been suggested that much of the purchasing behavior not only reflects the personalities as well as the relationship with others, basically means people act both individually and as members of families, and communities (Wang et al., 2016, p. 217). An interview with a high school female in Hanoi revealed that 

“When I buy things, especially clothes, I don’t just base on personal preference but also consider if my classmates and other people like it” (Ngo, 2020) 

As the interview suggests, purchasing behaviors of young buyers are manipulated by peer pressure since they consider being fit-in social groups is a fundamental aspect, therefore, produce the highest priorities for peer standard, lifestyle, and trends (Albert et al., 2014, Kanjer and Bhatia, 2018, p. 72). This is the reason why peer pressure is the most common motive that Vietnamese adolescents start consuming and buying alcohol (Diep, et al, 2016).

V. The target age of the research

Adolescence is the period when teenagers spend more time with their friends and are less family-focused (Knoll et al., 2017). They start to value peer opinions more when assessing self-worth (O’Brien and Bierman, 1988), which leads to being hypersensitive to exclusion among peers (Knoll et al., 2017). As a result, youngsters show the highest susceptibility to social influence compared to adults or kids, and they make decisions to pursue social approval (Knoll et al., 2015). An interview with a high school female in Hanoi validate that 

“I felt left out if I did not buy or wear the same types of clothes as my friends.” (Pham, 2020)

Furthermore, this period is when Vietnamese teens start to receive more resources and options, including getting pocket money (Lachat et al., 2009). Therefore, 10 to 18 is an acceptable age to study the outcome of peer pressure on buying decisions.

VI. Peer pressure studies in Hanoi

Most of the studies in Hanoi focus mainly on drinking or drug usage which may further infer to buying alcohol and drugs, yet it is more inclined to risk-taking behaviors rather than purchasing decisions. Although a substantial amount of research on the relationship between peer pressure and purchasing decisions has been taken in Asia such as India, Taiwan (Shu and Trong, 2018), or Thailand (Childers and Rao, 1992) unfortunately, there is little evidence to which these findings can be applied in Vietnam or specifically in Hanoi. This addresses a limitation and knowledge gap in the topic. Therefore, this study seeks to enrich the existing literature on peer pressure influence by using primary research. 

VII. Primary Research Results

The study examined 2 groups of adolescents, 10-13 years old group, and 14-18 years old group around Hanoi through the digital survey (Table 1).

Table 1: Respondents demographic. (Nguyen, 2020)

Table 2: Respondents’ thoughts about peer pressure effect when purchasing stuff. (Nguyen, 2020)

Table 2 presents 39.6%, and 46.2% of respondents from the 10-13 group and 14-18 group reported that peer pressure does not have an impact on their purchasing decision.

Table 3: Decision making based on peers’ information. (Nguyen, 2020)

Table 3 shows that if adolescents have little knowledge about the products, they will likely follow peer’s suggestions, only 6.2% and 20.5% of people said no in the age group 10-13 and 14-18 group respectively. This is the evidence of what literature calls informational influence. 

.Table 4:  Decision making based on peer standards. (Nguyen, 2020)

Table 4 shows a utilitarian influence to which the majority of respondents in both groups are willing to buy the products that they think their friends will accept, or they think it goes with the norm of the group.

Table 5: Decision making based on the enhancement of self-image. (Nguyen, 2020)

In table 5,  87.5% and 87.2% of people buy the same products to enhance their image in 10-14 and 14-18 respectively which means value-expressive influence has a significant result in purchasing decisions.

VIII. Discussion 

Based on the analysis, it suggests that peer pressure, which is exerted through reference groups, has significant effects on purchasing decisions amongst adolescents. 

The data show that early adolescents in Vietnam are more likely to respond to informational influence. Most youngsters in this group make purchasing decisions based on guidelines or information from peers. However, middle adolescents have a higher susceptibility to utilitarian and especially value-expressive influence. They want to improve their identity by having the same products as a certain peer group. These people also value conformity and group standards presented by being manipulated about what other peers think of their products. This conforms with the study of Knoll et al in 2015.

Although most of the respondents are affected by peer pressure, worth noting data in table 2 shows nearly half of them claim not to be impacted by pressure when purchasing. An explanation for this phenomenon is that adolescents do not acknowledge that peer pressure is affecting them and they tend to underestimate peer pressure. The data also infer that the adolescents who are aware of the peer pressure effect would still conform with the group, which means teenagers feel it is normal and acceptable to follow their friends when buying products. This is in agreement with previous study by Chang and Nguyen (2018)

It can be concluded that the 10-14 years old group which is the early adolescent is more susceptible to peer pressure whereas, middle adolescents vary from 14-18 years old have more resistance to influence from peers. This was previously examined and concluded by Steinberg and Monahan in 2007. 

Regarding that, although not a main focus of the survey, the research also found out that the susceptibility varies as genders. Females are generally more resistant to peer pressure when making buying decision measures by the lower percentage of females affected by peers, and notable females do not conform to peers’ expectations. This conforms with the previous study by Steinberg and Monahan in 2009. 

IX. Conclusion 

This paper, which particularly focuses on adolescents in Hanoi, has enhanced knowledge of the existing literature. By researching and analyzing, the data gives clear results that peer pressure has a significant impact on early and middle adolescents in Hanoi when making purchasing decisions, especially early adolescents are more susceptible to reference group influence. Furthermore, the study also suggested that females are more resistant to peer pressure compared to males. However, the samples are limited and only reflect some extent of the current situation in Hanoi, therefore, this should only be served as a supplement to the topic. Further study is indispensable to fully elaborate the topic in Hanoi. 

X. Reference 

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