Peer Influence on Marijuana Use in Different Types of Friendships

Published in: Journal of Adolescent Health, v. 54, no. 1, Jan. 2014, p. 67-73

Posted on RAND.org on October 08, 2013

by Joan Tucker, Kayla De La Haye, David P. Kennedy, Hank Green, Michael Pollard

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PURPOSE: Although several social network studies have demonstrated peer influence effects on adolescent substance use, findings for marijuana use have been equivocal. This study examines whether structural features of friendships moderate friends' influence on adolescent marijuana use over time. METHODS: Using 1-year longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, this article examines whether three structural features of friendships moderate friends' influence on adolescent marijuana use: whether the friendship is reciprocated, the popularity of the nominated friend, and the popularity/status difference between the nominated friend and the adolescent. The sample consists of students in grade 10/11 at wave I, who were in grade 11/12 at wave II, from two large schools with complete grade-based friendship network data (N = 1,612). RESULTS: In one school, friends' influence on marijuana use was more likely to occur within mutual, reciprocated friendships compared with nonreciprocated relationships. In the other school, friends' influence was stronger when the friends were relatively popular within the school setting or much more popular than the adolescents themselves. CONCLUSIONS: Friends' influence on youth marijuana use may play out in different ways, depending on the school context. In one school, influence occurred predominantly within reciprocated relationships that are likely characterized by closeness and trust, whereas in the other school adopting friends' drug use behaviors appeared to be a strategy to attain social status. Further research is needed to better understand the conditions under which structural features of friendships moderate friends' influence on adolescent marijuana use.

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