Love changes drinking behaviour in teens

Thursday, 29 September 2011 12:00 AM

Teens are more likely to binge drink if their partner’s friends do, new research reveals.

In fact, youngsters are more influenced by their partner’s friends, than their partner or even their own friends.

"Dating someone whose friends are big drinkers is more likely to cause an adolescent to engage in dangerous drinking behaviours than are the drinking habits of the adolescent's own friends or romantic partner," said Derek Kreager, author of the study based at Pennsylvania State University.

"This applies to both binge drinking and drinking frequency."

For example, the study found that the odds of an adolescent binge drinking if his or her partner's friends engage in heavy drinking is more than twice as high as the likelihood of an adolescent binge drinking if his or her friends or significant other drink heavily.

"The friends of a partner are likely to be very different from the adolescent and his or her friends and they might also be, at least a little, different from the partner," said Kreager.

"Adolescents are motivated to be more like their partner's friends in an effort to strengthen their relationship with their partner."

Last week a study found that popular teens were more likely to drink alcohol.

Of course, the influence of a significant other's friends on a teenager’s drinking habits is not always negative.

"If an adolescent is a drinker and he or she starts going out with someone whose friends predominately don't drink, you would find the same effect but in the opposite direction," Kreager said.

Relying on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a survey of U.S. adolescents, the researchers looked at 449 couples in 1994, when they hadn't necessarily gotten together yet, and in 1996, after they had become a couple.

In their study, the authors also found that before getting together, adolescent dating partners share few of the same friends and that an adolescent's friends are likely to be the same gender as he or she.

"Couples often come from different friendship groups," said Kreager.

These results support the idea that the peer contexts of dating expose adolescents to new opportunities and norms that influence their own drinking behaviour, while also increasing opposite-gender friendship ties and expanding early adolescent mixed-gender peer groups, according to the authors.

Interestingly, males are more susceptible to a significant other's influence than girls. according to the study published in the American Sociological Review.

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