Prevention Science

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 56-64

First online:

Peer Attitudes Effects on Adolescent Substance Use: The Moderating Role of Race and Gender

  • Michael J. MasonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Commonwealth Institute for Child & Family Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University Email author 
  • , Jeremy MennisAffiliated withTemple University
  • , Julie LinkerAffiliated withVirginia Commonwealth University
  • , Cristina BaresAffiliated withVirginia Commonwealth University
  • , Nikola ZaharakisAffiliated withVirginia Commonwealth University

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We examined the relationship between adolescents’ perceptions of their close friends’ attitudes about substance use, and their own use of cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana. Using data from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a multistage area probability sample sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (n = 17,865), we tested the direct and moderating effects of subgroups of race and gender on perceptions of adolescents’ close friends on past month substance use. Significant effects were found on peer attitudes influencing substance use for all race and gender subgroups. Close friends’ attitudes of indifference were associated with increased substance use and disapproval associated with reduced use, controlling for age, income, family structure, and adolescents’ own attitudes of risk of substance use. Significant moderating effects of peer attitudes on cigarette and marijuana use were found for both gender and race moderators. Conditional effects of the moderation by race were also examined for gender subgroups. The moderating effect of race on close friends’ attitudes impacting cigarette and marijuana use was stronger in magnitude and significance for females compared to males. Female marijuana and cigarette use was more influenced by close friends’ attitudes than males, and whites were more influenced by their close friends than Hispanics and blacks. White females are more susceptible to close friends’ attitudes on cigarette use as compared to white males and youth of other races. Implications for socially oriented preventive interventions are discussed.


Adolescent substance use Peer attitudes Race and gender