Despite their potentially serious short- and long-term risks, developmental theorists have argued that risk behaviours may play important constructive roles in adolescent development. The present study hypothesised that adolescent substance use, but not delinquency, would be associated with positive peer relations. Subjects were 491 German adolescents participating in the Bielefeld Longitudinal Youth Survey who completed questionnaires during grades 7, 8, 9, and 10. Measures were adolescents' self-reported substance use (alcohol, tobacco), delinquency (antisocial acts), and peer relations (peer involvement frequency, perceived peer group closeness, perceived position in the peer group, having a boy- or girlfriend). Repeated measures analyses of variance examined gender and school type differences in risk behaviour and peer relations across four occasions. Within-time, peer relations were positively related to substance use and, in a few cases, positively related to delinquency. As hypothesised, substance use predicted increases in the frequency and intensity of peer relations, but delinquency did not do so consistently. The pattern of results did not differ by gender or school type. The discussion focuses on the meaning of risky behaviours and differences between substance use and delinquency, and argues that prevention efforts must take seriously the positive functions served by risk behaviours.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Life-span and Life-course Studies