Positive alcohol expectancies (PAE) and associating with drinking peers are reliable predictors of adolescent alcohol use. Knowledge of when and for whom these risk factors are most influential could enhance intervention effectiveness. A study assessed the reciprocal relations between PAE and adolescent and peer alcohol use in a group of adolescents.
Participants aged between 13 and 18 were drawn from the National Consortium on Alcohol and NeuroDevelopment in Adolescence (NCANDA).
Associating with drinking peers prospectively predicted more frequent alcohol use for both sexes, although peer socialisation was evident earlier for girls compared with boys. Higher PAE influenced later drinking in mid-adolescence, from age 14 to 16, for boys only. PAE influenced peer group selection for both sexes, although the influence was evident earlier in boys than girls.
The authors state that the relative impact of environmental risk factors for problematic alcohol use may vary over time and across developmental periods. They say that their results suggest that prevention and treatment efforts for adolescent drinking can be improved by targeting ageappropriate risk factors. Early adolescent interventions may be best served by minimising involvement with drinking peers and correcting normative beliefs of peer use. Among adolescent girls, early interventions focused on reducing peer influence may be most effective. Prevention and treatment programmes aimed at addressing PAE would likely prove more effective for boys in midto late adolescence.
Source: Reciprocal relations between positive alcohol expectancies and peer use on adolescent drinking: An accelerated autoregressive cross-lagged model using the NCANDA sample. Boyd SJ, Sceeles EM, Tapert SF, Brown SA, Nagel BJ. Psychol Addict Behav. 2018 Jul 2.