It isn’t news that peer pressure can lead to teen drinking. However, a new study shows teens with “popular” friends and with friends who already drink might be more likely to start drinking at a young age.
A “popular” student was defined as someone who was listed the most by other people as a friend. Around 25 percent of American teens will start drinking by the time they are 13 years old, putting them at 4-times the risk of becoming an alcohol-dependent adult.
In the study, each student listed five males and five females they considered their friends in order for researchers to create a social network. They found among the social network that the risk of alcohol use increased by 13 percent for every popular friend the student had. “For every 10 friends who could be reached through three steps of friendship, an adolescent’s risk of alcohol initiation increased 3 percent.”
Even though popularity proved to be a variable that increased students’ chances of drinking alcohol, the number one contributor to teen alcohol consumption was if the teen was friends with someone who drinks. In fact, teens who have friends who drink were 34 percent more likely to drink alcohol than those without.
This study suggests alcohol reduction efforts in schools would benefit from targeting popular students at school since they influence the greatest amount of their peers. What do you think? Could a top down approach reduce drinking amongst teens? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
“Teens at Smaller Schools May Delay Drinking,” by Rachel Rettner. 27 September 2011. My Health News Daily. 28 September 2011. <http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/teen-drinking-social-networks-1944/>