You Drink I Drink

Spouse and friends influence drinking habit

(RxWiki News) Most parents know that kids who start drinking early will have an increased risk of suffering health problems, but what can you do about it? Get to know your child's partner and friends.

Researchers have found that teenagers are more influenced by their partner's friends than their own friends. 

"Pay attention to the crowd your child hangs with."

Lead author, Derek Kreager, Ph.D., an associate professor of crime, law and justice at Pennsylvania State University, says teens who date someone who has friends that drink a lot will most likely drink a lot too. Teens are just trying to fit in with their partner's friends so their own relationship will get stronger and better, Kreager believes.

The results suggested that teenagers are more than twice as likely to indulge in binge drinking if their partner's friends are heavy drinkers compared to if their own friends are heavy drinkers.

The researchers also found that teenagers dated teens from other groups of friends who share few friends in common. This shows that dating exposes kids to new opportunities and other norms that could influence their own drinking behavior, while exposing them to new friends - particularly opposite-sex friendships, Kreager says.

The researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which is a survey of U.S. adolescents in grades seven through twelve from the 1994 to 1995 school year. The study included responses from 898 students from 1994 before the students were couples by 1996.

Even though research suggests teens are more influenced by their significant other's friends that doesn't mean friends, peers, and the significant other don't have any influence; parents need to keep in mind that there are many factors that can influence kids, Kreager says. Prevention and intervention plans should consider looking at dating when addressing drinking behaviors, attitudes and opportunities, he adds.

The research is published in the October issue of the American Sociological Review.

Review Date: 
September 29, 2011