Peer Influence Increases the Risk of Teen Smoking by Twofold

Posted on August 23, 2017

Previous research has found that peer influence is a major factor for smoking in teenagers. A recent meta-analysis has revealed how big this effect is. The meta-analysis was conducted on 75 longitudinal teen smoking studies. The results suggest that the risk of smoking in individuals aged 10 to 19 doubles with peer influence.

The type of culture also impacts the amount of influence peers have. Adolescents in more collectivist countries are 4.3 times more likely to start smoking if they have peers who smoke, compared to those who don’t. In the most individualistic countries, the figure reduces to 1.89 times. The study had data from 16 countries that varied in culture. Some were collectivistic, like China and Jordan, while some were individualistic like the United States, Australia and Canada.

The ethnic origin of adolescents was also assessed, regardless of their nationality. Peer influence was much weaker in studies that had more participants with a European background. It was much stronger for samples with more adolescents from Asian backgrounds. The researchers mention that ethnic and cultural background could explain why teen smoking studies vary in their results on the impact of peer influence on teen smoking.

How close the peer is to the adolescent also changes the risk of smoking. Friends who are closer to the adolescent are more likely to influence them to start smoking compared to those who are less close. However, for adolescents who were already smoking, closeness of friendships did not have an impact on whether they continued smoking. The researchers suggest that the addiction to tobacco overrode any impact.

The design of the meta-analysis enabled researchers to better avoid a problem found in peer influence smoking studies – whether adolescents influence their peers to smoke, or do those who already smoke tend to become friends? According to the study’s lead author, Jiaying Liu, Ph.D., the inclusion of only longitudinal studies helped to better establish that peer influence led to adolescent smoking. This was because longitudinal studies measured peer influence first, before adolescent smoking outcomes later.

The researchers hope that the research on the risk factors for teen smoking can help in the creation of prevention efforts. For example, including more normative influences like showing how many teenagers do not smoke. There can also be an emphasis on building refusal skills in children by both the school and parents, the researchers suggest. Co-author Emily Falk, Ph.D., mentions that the study shows the importance of looking at the network around the teenager, and not just focus on individual behaviour alone, as behaviour can spread. Future research can look at how to use social influence for smoking prevention, Liu adds.

Category(s):Child and/or Adolescent Issues, Smoking Cessation, Teenage Issues

Source material from Psych Central

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