Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 30, Issue 6, pp 675-695

First online:

Influences of Risk Behaviors on the Quality of Peer Relations in Adolescence

  • Rutger C. M. E. EngelsAffiliated withDepartment of Child and Adolescent Studies, Utrecht University
  • , Tom ter BogtAffiliated withDepartment of Child and Adolescent Studies, Utrecht University, Utrecht

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The majority of young people experiment with alcohol use, smoking, drug use, and delinquency. In order to understand why adolescents are engaged in potential risk behaviors, it is important to look at the functions of these behaviors for adolescents' social and personal functioning. In this study, we examined whether substance use, transgressive behavior, and delinquency are related to the quality of peer relations. Univariate analyses of data of a study on five hundred eight 12–18-year-olds showed that substance use and transgressive behavior are positively related to both the quantity (chumship, size of network, and time spent with peers) and the quality (attachment, support, acceptance, and competence) of peer relations. The association with peer relations were less straightforward for adolescent delinquency. Hierarchical regression analyses, however, showed that when the associations of quantitative aspects of peer relations are controlled for, no additional effects of substance use and transgressive behavior emerged. This suggests that social functions of risk behaviors may be understood as providing the opportunity to intensify contacts with peers or initiate new relations that, in turn, may be related to peer relations in a positive sense.