Prevention Science

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 497–505 | Cite as

Longitudinal Relationship Between Drinking with Peers, Descriptive Norms, and Adolescent Alcohol Use

  • Ashley Brooks-RussellEmail author
  • Bruce Simons-Morton
  • Denise Haynie
  • Tilda Farhat
  • Jing Wang


Descriptive norms are consistently found to predict adolescent alcohol use but less is known about the factors that predict descriptive norms. The objective of this study is to test if drinking with peers predicts later alcohol consumption and if this relationship is mediated by a change in the descriptive norms of peer alcohol use. Data are from a nationally representative cohort of high school students surveyed in the 10th and 11th grade (N = 2,162). Structural equation modeling was used to test a mediation model of the relationship between drinking with peers (T1) on later alcohol use (T2) and mediation of the relationship by descriptive norms (T2). Descriptive norms significantly mediated the relationship between drinking with peers and alcohol use for both males and females with a somewhat larger effect for males compared to females. These results support a continued focus on the development and evaluation of interventions to alter descriptive norms of alcohol use.


Adolescent alcohol use Peer influence Mediation 



  1. Agostinelli, G., Brown, J. M., & Miller, W. R. (1995). Effects of normative feedback on consumption among heavy drinking college students. Journal of Drug Education, 25, 31–40.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Beck, K. H., Summons, T. G., & Thombs, D. L. (1991). A factor analytic study of social context of drinking in a high school population. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 5, 66–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bentler, P. M. (1990). Comparative fit indexes in structural models. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 238–246.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Borsari, B., & Carey, K. B. (2001). Peer influences on college drinking: A review of the research. Journal of Substance Abuse, 13, 391–424.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Browne, M. W., & Cudek, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. pp. 132–162). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  6. Callas, P. W., Flynn, B. S., & Worden, J. K. (2004). Potentially modifiable psychosocial factors associated with alcohol use during early adolescence. Addictive Behaviors, 29, 1503–1515.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Carter, C. A., & Kahnweiler, W. M. (2000). The efficacy of the social norms approach to substance abuse prevention applied to fraternity men. Journal of American College Health, 49, 66–71.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). Youth risk behavior surveillanceUnited States (Rep. No. 61 (No. 4)). Atlanta, GA: Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services.Google Scholar
  9. Clapp, J. D., & McDonnell, A. L. (2000). The relationship of perceptions of alcohol promotion and peer drinking norms to alcohol problems reported by college students. Journal of College Student Development, 41, 19–26.Google Scholar
  10. Cole, D. A., & Maxwell, S. E. (2003). Testing mediational models with longitudinal data: Questions and tips in the use of structural equation modeling. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 112, 558–577.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Collins, S. E., Carey, K. B., & Sliwinski, M. J. (2002). Mailed personalized normative feedback as a brief intervention for at-risk college drinkers. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 63, 559–567.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Conway, K. P., Vullo, G., Nichter, B., Wang, J., Compton, W. M., Simons-Morton, B., et al. (2013). Prevalence and patterns of polysubstance use in a nationally representative sample of 10th graders in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.12.006.PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Cullum, J., Armeli, S., & Tennen, H. (2010). Drinking norm–behavior association over time using retrospective and daily measures. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 71, 769–777.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Cumsille, P. E., Sayer, A. G., & Graham, J. W. (2000). Perceived exposure to peer and adult drinking as predictors of growth in positive alcohol expectancies during adolescence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 531–536.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Currie, C., Molcho, M., Boyce, W., Holstein, B., Torsheim, T., & Richter, M. (2008). Researching health inequalities in adolescents: The development of the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) Family Affluence Scale. Social Science & Medicine, 66, 1429–1436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dick, D. M., Pagan, J. L., Holliday, C., Viken, R., Pulkkinen, L., Kaprio, J., et al. (2007). Gender differences in friends’ influences on adolescent drinking: A genetic epidemiological study. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 31, 2012–2019.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Farhat, T., Iannotti, R. J., & Simons-Morton, B. (2010). Overweight, obesity, youth and health-risk behaviors. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 38, 258–267.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. French, M. T., & Maclean, J. C. (2006). Underage alcohol use, delinquency, and criminal activity. Health Economics, 15, 1261–1281.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Gaughan, M. (2006). The gender structure of adolescent peer influence on drinking. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 47, 47–61.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Graham, J. W., Marks, G., & Hansen, W. B. (1991). Social influence processes affecting adolescent substance use. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76, 291–298.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Harford, T. C., Wechsler, H., & Muthén, B. O. (2002). The impact of current residence and high school drinking on alcohol problems among college students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 63, 271–279.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Hingson, R. W., Edwards, E. M., Heeren, T., & Rosenbloom, D. (2009). Age of drinking onset and injuries, motor vehicle crashes, and physical fights after drinking and when not drinking. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 33, 783–790.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6, 1–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2012). Monitoring the future: National survey results on drug use, 1975–2011. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  25. Kuntsche, E., Knibbe, R., Gmel, G., & Engels, R. (2005). Why do young people drink? A review of drinking motives. Clinical Psychology Review, 25, 841–861.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Larimer, M. E., Turner, A. P., Mallett, K. A., & Geisner, I. M. (2004). Predicting drinking behavior and alcohol-related problems among fraternity and sorority members: Examining the role of descriptive and injunctive norms. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 18, 203–212.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Lewis, M. A., & Neighbors, C. (2006). Social norms approaches using descriptive drinking norms education: A review of the research on personalized normative feedback. Journal of American College Health, 54, 213–218.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Mattern, J. L., & Neighbors, C. (2004). Social norms campaigns: Examining the relationship between changes in perceived norms and changes in drinking levels. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 65, 489–493.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (2011). Mplus users guide (6th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
  30. Neighbors, C., Dillard, A. J., Lewis, M. A., Bergstrom, R. L., & Neil, T. A. (2006). Normative misperceptions and temporal precedence of perceived norms and drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 67, 290–299.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Pope, S. K., Smith, P. D., Wayne, J. B., & Kelleher, K. J. (1994). Gender differences in rural adolescent drinking patterns. Journal of Adolescent Health, 15, 359–365.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Quigley, B. M., & Collins, R. L. (1999). The modeling of alcohol consumption: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 60, 90–98.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Rimal, R. N., & Real, K. (2005). How behaviors are influenced by perceived norms a test of the theory of normative social behavior. Communication Research, 32, 389–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rimal, R. N., & Real, K. (2003). Understanding the influence of perceived norms on behaviors. Communication Theory, 13, 184–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rudolph, K. D., & Conley, C. S. (2005). The socioemotionol costs and benefits of social-evaluative concerns: Do girls care too much? Journal of Personality, 73, 115–137.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Sen, B. (2002). Does alcohol-use increase the risk of sexual intercourse among adolescents? Evidence from the NLSY97. Journal of Health Economics, 21, 1085–1093.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Sher, K. J., Bartholow, B. D., & Nanda, S. (2001). Short- and long-term effects of fraternity and sorority membership on heavy drinking: A social norms perspective. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 15, 42–51.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Simons-Morton, B., Haynie, D. L., Crump, A. D., Eitel, P., & Saylor, K. E. (2001). Peer and parent influences on smoking and drinking among early adolescents. Health Education & Behavior, 28, 95–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sobel, M. E. (1982). Asymptotic confidence intervals for indirect effects in structural equation models. Sociological Methodology, 13, 290–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stewart, C., & Power, T. G. (2002). Identifying patterns of adolescent drinking: A tri-ethnic study. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 63, 156–168.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Sussman, S., Pokhrel, P., Ashmore, R. D., & Brown, B. B. (2007). Adolescent peer group identification and characteristics: A review of the literature. Addictive Behaviors, 32, 1602–1627.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Thombs, D. L. (2000). A test of the perceived norms model to explain drinking patterns among university student athletes. Journal of American College Health, 49, 75–83.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Thombs, D. L., Wolcott, B. J., & Farkash, L. G. E. (1997). Social context, perceived norms and drinking behavior in young people. Journal of Substance Abuse, 9, 257–267.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Townsend, L., Flisher, A. J., & King, G. (2007). A systematic review of the relationship between high school dropout and substance use. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 10, 295–317.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Tucker, L. R., & Lewis, C. (1973). A reliability coefficient for maximum likelihood factor analysis. Psychometrika, 38, 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Walters, S. T. (2000). In praise of feedback: An effective intervention for college students who are heavy drinkers. Journal of American College Health, 48, 235–238.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Walters, S. T., & Neighbors, C. (2005). Feedback interventions for college alcohol misuse: What, why and for whom? Addictive Behaviors, 30, 1168–1182.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Wang, M. Q., Fitzhugh, E. C., Westerfield, R. C., & Eddy, J. M. (1995). Family and peer influences on smoking behavior among American adolescents: An age trend. Journal of Adolescent Health, 16, 200–203.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Wood, M. D., Read, J. P., Palfai, T. P., & Stevenson, J. F. (2001). Social influence processes and college student drinking: The mediational role of alcohol outcome expectancies. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 62, 32–43.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Yeh, M. Y., Chiang, I. C., & Huang, S. Y. (2006). Gender differences in predictors of drinking behavior in adolescents. Addictive Behaviors, 31, 1929–1938.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Yu, J., & Shacket, R. W. (2001). Alcohol use in high school: Predicting students’ alcohol use and alcohol problems in four-year colleges. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 27, 775–793.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research (outside the USA) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ashley Brooks-Russell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bruce Simons-Morton
    • 1
  • Denise Haynie
    • 1
  • Tilda Farhat
    • 1
  • Jing Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.Prevention Research Branch, Division of Epidemiology Statistics, and Prevention ResearchEunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human DevelopmentBethesdaUSA

Personalised recommendations