How do peers influence teens' behavior?

Categories: New Grant Award

Type: News

Date Published: 09/20/2013

A unique study just funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse will allow ORI scientists Julie Rusby, Ph.D., and John Light, Ph.D., to examine how peers and social groups influence adolescent problem behavior. In this 5-year grant, Rusby, Light, and Co-Investigator Erika Westling, Ph.D., will use cutting-edge technologies, including mini-surveys using iPod Touch, to capture and model the dynamic social processes that influence youth behavior. The ultimate goal is to be able to forecast potential risk and intervene when necessary.

The study builds on two recent studies conducted by the research team: Dynamic Peer Social Networks (“DyNet”; Light & Rusby, NICHD R01-HD052887) and Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) Feasibility (Rusby, Light, & Westling, NIDA 1R21-DA023618). From DyNet, investigators learned that antisocial behavior risk in early adolescence is seasonal, peaking during the summer and early fall and that the initiation of experimental and regular alcohol use is definitively driven by both peer selection and influence effects. The EMA feasibility study, which used the iPod Touch to prompt youth to complete mini-surveys throughout the day, found that perception of peer popularity was associated with happy mood and that affiliating with peers who teased them predicted negative and changeable moods.