Moderators of Friend Selection and Influence in Relation to Adolescent Alcohol Use

Evelien M. Hoeben, Kelly L. Rulison, Daniel T. Ragan, Mark E. Feinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Friendships form an important context in which adolescents initiate and establish alcohol use patterns, but not all adolescents may be equally affected by this context. Therefore, this study tests whether parenting practices (i.e., parental discipline, parental knowledge, unsupervised time with peers) and individual beliefs (i.e., alcohol descriptive norms, positive social expectations, moral approval of alcohol use) moderate friend selection and influence around alcohol use. Stochastic actor-based models were used to analyze longitudinal social network and survey data from 12,335 adolescents (aged 11 to 17, 51.3% female) who were participating in the PROSPER project. A separate model was estimated for each moderating variable. Adolescents who reported consistent parental discipline, less unsupervised time with peers, higher descriptive alcohol use norms, and less positive social expectations about alcohol use were less likely to select alcohol-using friends. Those who reported consistent parental discipline, better parental knowledge, lower descriptive alcohol use norms, and less positive social expectations were more influenced by their friends’ level of alcohol use. Thus, adolescents with these characteristics whose friends frequently use alcohol are at greater risk whereas those whose friends do not use alcohol are at lower risk of using alcohol. The findings show that, although selection and influence processes are connected, they may function in different ways for different groups of adolescents. For some adolescents, it is particularly important to prevent them from selecting alcohol-using friends, because they are more susceptible to influence from such friends. These peer network dynamics might explain how proximal outcomes targeted by many prevention programs (i.e., parenting practices and individual beliefs) translate into changes in alcohol use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPrevention Science
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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