Peers Can Influence Teens Not to Drink

Alcohol abuse can be prevented with the right kind of peer pressure

(RxWiki News) What if all of the popular kids in high school were against underage drinking? A new study suggests their social status holds a lot of weight when it comes to making decisions about alcohol.

Researchers discover that peer influence from high-social standing teens can seriously influence whether or not someone underage chooses to drink or not to drink.

This information can influence how anti-underage drinking campaigns can be more affective.

"Encourage teens to hang out with other non-drinkers."

In a recent study lead by doctoral student at Radboud University Nijmegen Hanneke A. Teunissen, researchers set out to understand how peer pressure affects drinking behavior in adolescents.

They questioned 532 boys and girls aged 14-15 years from 4 different Dutch high schools about their willingness to drink. From the sample they asked 74 boys to participate in an Internet chat simulation with either pro-alcohol or anti-alcohol 'peers'. The ‘peers’ in the chat rooms were actually set up to follow a preprogrammed set of rules for the purposes of the study.

Researchers wanted to know if how the 74 boys would behave in the chat rooms with respect to the pro or anti drinking attitudes of the ‘peers’ they were chatting with. The key factor that they manipulated was how popular the ‘peers’ in the chat room were.

The results pointed to the fact that the popular social status of the simulated peers influenced more heavily than less popular kids—both for anti-alcohol and pro-alcohol attitudes. Basically adolescents want to follow the beliefs and behaviors of the popular kids, regardless of which side they’re promoting.

What this study suggests is that future campaigns to curb underage drinking will need to have teens with a lot of social currency behind them. It may not be that teens find groups that believe what they already believe, but rather that teens form their beliefs based on what is accepted by a particular person or group they admire. 

This study will be published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER), July 2012. The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research provided funding for this study. No conflicts of interest were found.

Review Date: 
April 11, 2012