Other-Sex Friendships Early Predict Substance Use in Girls

Faster pace of mixed-sex networks may indicate risk of alcohol, drug use later

MONDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- Girls whose friendship networks transition from girls-only to mixed-sex early in adolescence and with rapidity appear to be more likely to use alcohol and drugs in late adolescence, according to research published online March 9 in the Journal of Research on Adolescence.

To evaluate the effect of changes in gender composition in friendship networks on substance use, François Poulin, of the Université du Québec à Montréal, and colleagues interviewed 390 girls and boys each year from ages 12 to 18 about their friendship networks and use of alcohol and drugs.

The researchers found a higher proportion of other-sex friends early on predictive of later-adolescent alcohol use in both boys and girls, and of drug use in girls only. For girls, a faster increase in other-sex friendships predicted later alcohol use.

"In conclusion, it was shown that, even though other-sex friendships could be seen as a desirable and normative form of interpersonal relationship in early adolescence, the pace (e.g., slope factor) at which girls introduce boys into their network could also be a reliable indicator of developmental risk," the authors write.

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