Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 267–277 | Cite as

Friends: The Role of Peer Influence Across Adolescent Risk Behaviors

  • Kimberly A. Maxwell


This longitudinal project examined peer influence across five risk behaviors: cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, marijuana use, tobacco chewing, and sexual debut. A total of 1,969 adolescents aged 12–18 years completed two waves of data collection. Each respondent matched behavior data for at least one friend. Results found that a random same sex peer predicts a teen's risk behavior initiation; there is influence only to initiate cigarette and marijuana use; and that there is influence to initiate and stop alcohol and chewing tobacco use. This finding suggests that friends may protect adolescents from risk activities. The study has implications for understanding how peer influence, expressed as social norms, may be used in public health campaigns that target teen behavior.

adolescence friendship peer relations risk behaviors 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aloise-Young, P. A., Graham, J. W., and Hansen, W. B. (1994). Peer influence on smoking initiation during early adolescence: A comparison of group members and group outsiders. J. Appl. Psychol. 79: 281-287.Google Scholar
  2. Bauman, K. E., Botvin, G. J., Botvin, E. M., and Baker, E. (1992). Normative expectations and the behavior of significant others: An integration of traditions in research on adolescents' cigarette smoking. Psychol. Rep. 71: 567-570.Google Scholar
  3. Bauman, K. E., and Ennett, S. T. (1994). Peer influence on adolescent drug use. Am. Psychol. 49: 820-822.Google Scholar
  4. Bauman, K. E., and Ennett, S. T. (1996). On the importance of peer influence for adolescent drug use: Commonly neglected considerations. Addiction 91: 185-198.Google Scholar
  5. Benda, B. B., and DiBlasio, F. A. (1994). An integration of theory: Adolescent sexual contacts. J. Youth Adolesc. 23: 403-421.Google Scholar
  6. Berndt, T. J. (1999). Friends' influence on students' adjustment to school. Educ. Psychol. 34: 15-28.Google Scholar
  7. Billy, J. O. G., and Udry, J. R. (1985). Patterns of adolescent friendship and effects on sexual behavior. Soc. Psychol. Q. 48: 27-41.Google Scholar
  8. Brook, J. S., Nomura, C., and Cohen, P. (1989). A network of influences on adolescent drug involvement: Neighborhood, school, peer and family. Genet. Soc. Gen. Psychol. Monologues 115: 123-145.Google Scholar
  9. Chassin, L., Presson, C. C., Montello, D., Sherman, S. J., and McGrew, J. (1986). Changes in peer and parent influence during adolescence: Longitudinal versus cross-sectional perspectives on smoking initiation. Dev. Psychol. 22: 324-327.Google Scholar
  10. Cohen, J. (1983). Commentary: The relationship between friendship selection and peer influence. In Epstein, J. L., and Karweit, N. (eds.), Friends in School. Academic Press, New York, pp. 163-176.Google Scholar
  11. Centers for Disease Control (1996). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 1995, p. 85. Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta.Google Scholar
  12. Cox, A. D., and Cox, D. (1998). Beyond “peer pressure”: A theoretical framework for understanding the varieties of social influence on adolescent risk behavior, Social Marketing Conference, Washington, DC, pp. 1-5.Google Scholar
  13. Deutsch, M., and Gerard, H. G. (1955). A study of normative and informational social influence upon individual judgment. J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 51: 629-636.Google Scholar
  14. DeVries, H., Backbier, E., Kok, G., and Dijkstra, M. (1995). The impact of social influence in the context of attitude, self-efficacy, intention and previous behavior as predictors of smoking onset. J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 25: 237-257.Google Scholar
  15. Eiser, J. R., Morgan, M., Gammage, P., Brooks, N., and Kirby, R. (1991). Adolescent health behavior and similarity-attraction: Friends share smoking habits (really), but much else besides. Br. J. Soc. Psychol. 30: 339-348.Google Scholar
  16. Eiser, J. R., and Van Der Plight, J. (1984). Attitudinal and social factors in adolescent smoking: In search of peer group influence. J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 14: 348-363.Google Scholar
  17. Eiser, J. R., and Stroebe, W. (1972). Categorization and Social Judgement. Academic Press, London.Google Scholar
  18. Ennett, S. T., and Bauman, K. E. (1991). Mediators in the relationship between parental and peer characteristics and beer drinking by early adolescents. J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 21: 1699-1711.Google Scholar
  19. Ennett, S. T., and Bauman, K. E. (1994). The contribution of influence and selection to adolescent peer group homogeneity: The case of adolescent cigarette smoking. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 67: 653-663.Google Scholar
  20. Ennett, S. T., Bauman, K. E., and Koch, G. G. (1994). Variability in cigarette smoking within and between adolescent friendship cliques. Addict. Behav. 19: 295-305.Google Scholar
  21. Epstein, J. L. (1989). The selection of friends: Changes across the grades and in different school environments. In Berndt, T. J., and Ladd, G.W. (eds.), Peer Relationships in Child Development.Wiley, New York, pp. 158-187.Google Scholar
  22. Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and Society. Norton, New York.Google Scholar
  23. Evans, R. I., Dratt, L. M., Raines, B. E., and Rosenberg, S. S. (1988). Social influences on smoking initiation: Importance of distinguishing descriptive versus mediating process variables. J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 18: 925-943.Google Scholar
  24. Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Hum. Relat. 7: 117-140.Google Scholar
  25. French, J. R. P., and Raven, B. (1959). The basis of social power. In Cartwright, D. (ed.), Studies in Social Power. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, pp. 150-167.Google Scholar
  26. Hallinan, M. T. (1978/79). The process of friendship formation. Soc. Netw. 1: 193-210.Google Scholar
  27. Harris, J. R. (1998). The Nurture Assumption (1st edn.). Free Press, New York.Google Scholar
  28. Hartup, W.W. (1979). The social worlds of childhood. Am. Psychol. 34: 944-950.Google Scholar
  29. Hill, D. (1971). Peer group conformity in adolescent smoking and its relationship to affiliation and autonomy needs. Aust. J. Psychol. 23: 189-199.Google Scholar
  30. Hirschman, R. S., Leventhal, H., and Glynn, K. (1984). The development of smoking behavior: Conceptualization and supportive crosssectional survey data. J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 14: 184-206.Google Scholar
  31. Huba, G. J., and Bentler, P.M. (1980). The role of peer and adult models for drug taking at different stages in adolescence. J. Youth Adolesc. 9: 449-465.Google Scholar
  32. Hunter, S. M., Vizelberg, I. A., and Berenson, G. S. (1991). Identifying mechanisms of adoption of tobacco and alcohol use among youth: The Bogalusa study. Soc. Netw. 13: 91-104.Google Scholar
  33. Jenkins, J. E. (1996). The influence of peer affiliation and student activities on adolescent drug involvement. Adolescence 31: 297-307.Google Scholar
  34. Kandel, D. (1978). Longitudinal Research on Drug Use: Empirical Findings and Methodological Issues. Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  35. Kandel, D. B. (1985). On processes of peer influences in adolescent drug use: A developmental perspective. In Stimmel, B., Brook, J., Lettieri, D., and Brook, D.W. (eds.), Alcohol and Substance Abuse in Adolescence. Hawthorn Press, New York, pp. 139-163.Google Scholar
  36. Kandel, D. B., Kessler, R. C., and Margulies, R. Z. (1978). Antecedents of adolescent initiation into stages of drug use: A developmental analysis. J. Youth Adolesc. 7: 13-40.Google Scholar
  37. Maxwell, K. A. (2000). Drinking, smoking, and inhaling: The role of peer group influence on adolescent risk behavior. In Annenberg School for Communications. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
  38. Mittlemark, M. B., Murray, D. M., Luepker, R. V., Pechacek, and Pirie, T. F. (1987). Predicting experimentation with cigarettes: The childhood antecedents of smoking study. Am. J. Public Health 77: 206-208.Google Scholar
  39. Mounts, N. S., and Steinberg, L. (1995). An ecological analysis of peer influence on adolescent grade point average and drug use. Dev. Psychol. 31: 915-922.Google Scholar
  40. Mueller, E. (1979). (Toddler + toys) = (an autonomous social system).In Lewis, M., and Rosenblum, L. (eds.), The Child and Its Family.Plenum, New York, pp. 169-194.Google Scholar
  41. Norman, N. M., and Tedeschi, J. T. (1989). Self-presentation, reasoned action and adolescents' decisions to smoke cigarettes. J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 19: 543-558.Google Scholar
  42. Petersen, A., and R. Spiga. (1982). Adolescence and Stress. In Goldberger, L., and Breznitz, S. (eds.), Handbook of Stress: Theoretical and Clinical Aspects. Free Press, New York, pp. 515-528.Google Scholar
  43. Petraitis, J., Flay, B. B., and Miller, T. Q. (1995). Reviewing theories of adolescent substance use: Organizing pieces in the puzzle. Psychol. Bull. 117: 67-86.Google Scholar
  44. Reinecke, J., Schmidt, P., and Ajzen, I. (1997). Birth control versus AIDS preventions: A hierarchical model of condom use among young people. J. Appl. Soc. Psychol. 27: 743-760.Google Scholar
  45. Romer, D., Black, M., Ricardo, I., Feigelman, S., Kaljee, L., Galbraith, J., Nisbet, R., Hornik, R. C., and Stanton, B. (1994). Social influences on the sexual behavior of youth at risk for HIV exposure. Am. J.Public Health 84: 977-985.Google Scholar
  46. Rose, J. S., Chassin, L., Presson, C. C., and Sherman, S. J. (1999). Peer influences on adolescent cigarette smoking: A prospective sibling analysis. Merrill-Palmer Q. 45: 62-84.Google Scholar
  47. Ross, L., Greene, D., and House, P. (1977). The “false consensus effect”: An egocentric bias in social perception and attribution processes. J. Exp. Soc. Psychol. 13: 279-301.Google Scholar
  48. Savin-Williams, R. C., and Brendt, T. J. (1990). Freindship and Peer Relations. In Feldman, S. S., and Elliott, G. R. (eds.), At the Threshold: The Developing Adolescent. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. 277-307.Google Scholar
  49. Sherif, M. (1936). The Psychology of Social Norms. Octagon Books, New York.Google Scholar
  50. Sherif, M., and Sherif, C. W. (1964). Reference Groups: Exploration Into Conformity and Deviation of Adolescents. Harper and Row, New York.Google Scholar
  51. Stanton, B., Li, X., Tang, X., Ricardo, I., Galbraith, J., Feigelman, S., and Kaljee, L. (1996). A randomized, controlled effectiveness trial of an AIDS prevention program for low-income African-American youths. Arch. Pediatr. Med. 150: 363-372.Google Scholar
  52. Stanton, B., Tang, X., Li, X., Feigelman, S., Galbraith, J., and Ricardo, I. (1997). Evolution of risk behaviors over 2 years among a cohort of urban African American adolescents. Arch. Pediatr. Adolesc. Med. 151: 398-406.Google Scholar
  53. Sussman, S. (1989). Two social influence perspectives of tobacco use development and prevention. Health Educ. Res. 4: 213-222.Google Scholar
  54. Tedeschi, J. T., and Bonoma, T. V. (1972). Power and influence: An introduction. InTedeschi, J.T. (ed.), The Social Influence Processes. Aldine and Atherton, Chicago.Google Scholar
  55. Thorliondsson, T., and Vihjalmsson, R. (1991). Factors related to cigarette smoking and alcohol use among adolescents. Adolescence 26: 399-419.Google Scholar
  56. Turner, J. C. (1991). Social Influence. Brooks/Cole, Pacific Grove, California.Google Scholar
  57. Urberg, K. A. (1992). Locus of peer influence: Social crowd and best friend. J. Youth Adolesc. 21: 439-450.Google Scholar
  58. Urberg, K. A. (1999). Introduction: Some thoughts about studying the influence of peers on children and adolescents. Merrill-Palmer Q. 45: 1-12.Google Scholar
  59. Urberg, K. A., Degirmencioglu, S. M., and Pilgrim, C. (1997). Close friend and group influence on adolescent cigarette smoking and alcohol use. Dev. Psychol. 33: 834-844.Google Scholar
  60. Vandell, D. L. (2000). Parents, peer groups, and other socializing influences. Dev. Psychol. 36: 699-710.Google Scholar
  61. Wentzel, K. R. (1999). Social influences on school adjustment: Commentary. Educ. Psychol. 34: 59-69.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kimberly A. Maxwell
    • 1
  1. 1.USA

Personalised recommendations