Peers Influence Both Pro- and Anti-Alcohol Behavior

Adolescents are very adaptable to changing their alcohol norms based on those of their peers

THURSDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Adolescents are very adaptable to changing their alcohol norms based on those of their peers, especially peers of high-status, who may successfully either encourage or discourage alcohol use, according to a study published online April 17 in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Hanneke A. Teunissen, of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a survey of 532 14- and 15-year-old adolescents to find out more about their drinking behavior, social status, and willingness to drink. From this larger group, a group of 74 boys participated in a simulated chat room session to test whether they changed their willingness to drink based on peer norms.

The researchers found that participants became both more and less willing to drink when presented with pro- and anti-alcohol peer sentiments and were influenced more by those deemed to be of higher social status. Popular peers with anti-alcohol norms were the most influential on the adolescents who participated in this study, and these adolescents were more likely to internalize these anti-alcohol norms.

"The present study is one of the first that experimentally examined peer influence on adolescents' willingness to drink, and provided more information about the underlying mechanisms of peer influence," the authors write. "Most importantly, the results indicated that peer influence might not only encourage alcohol use, but also have a preventive effect."

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