Selection Versus Socialization Effects of Peer Norms on Adolescent Cigarette Use

Previous studies have linked peer selection and socialization to adolescent substance use. A recent study featuring PISC Senior Scholar Dan Romer, PhD examines how varying magnitude and timing of peer selection and socialization relates to adolescent smoking. 387 adolescents living in Philadelphia were recruited for the study at an average age of 11.41 years. Participants were assessed over the course of 6 “waves”, spaced approximately one year apart. Perceived friend use was measured assessed with the question, “Of your friends and the people your age that you spend time with, how many smoke cigarettes?” Frequency of cigarette use was measured using an 8-point scale.

Results indicate that, in early to mid-adolescence, smoking behaviors can be easily predicted by selection rather than socialization effects. The team attributes this to younger adolescents being under the influence of their families more than their friends. Additionally, perceived friend cigarette use between Wave 2 and Wave 3 was associated with an increase in adolescent cigarette use between Wave 3 and Wave 4. This exemplifies how early adolescent cigarette use can be indirectly predicted overtime over time based on perceived friend use. Overall, the influence of selection outweighed the influence of socialization, although both factors reciprocally influence one another. Based on these results, the team suggests that “prevention programming might more effectively be directed toward families with smokers to reduce rates of early cigarette use onset among adolescents.”

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