Teenagers are more likely to start drinking alcohol when they have large networks of friends, according to a study published in Academic Pediatrics.
The findings suggest that, in addition to well- established demographic risk factors like age, race, and team sports, adolescents are at heightened risk of alcohol use onset because of their position in the social network. The study also found that closer proximity to more popular individuals was a factor in drinking initiation.
“In this study, adolescents in higher density school networks were more likely to initiate alcohol use,” according to Marlon P. Mundt, PhD, Department
of Family Medicine, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin, Madison. “More dense networks exhibit more interconnected clusters that magnify the spread of influence. Notably, the results come to light in view of computer simulations showing that more dense networks amplify the dynamics of influence cascades,” he added
The findings suggest that potentially limiting the size of adolescent groupings may have a positive effect on delaying alcohol initiation.
Source: The Impact of Peer Social Networks on Adolescent Alcohol Use Initiation, Marlon P. Mundt PhD, Academic Pediatrics. Available online 26 July 2011.