Study: Peers Sway Girls to Drink

ByABC News
January 23, 2001, 12:20 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, Jan. 23 — -- The tremendous pressures of peers who drink and teenage parties appear to have more influence on teen girls than boys as they wrestle with the decision of whether to drink, a federal study found.

The study, released today, was conducted by a research branch of the National Institutes of Health.

Bruce Simons-Morton, who led the study, wrote in a report that "peer pressure was positively associated with drinking for girls and not boys."

The data were developed from confidential surveys on drinking and smoking given to 4,200 teens in Marylands junior high schools.

Five Closest Friends

The notion that girls may be swayed by their friends more easily than boys is supported by many experts who have studied the subject.

"I'm not surprised at all. Girls go through this tremendous emotional and hormonal change as you they go to seventh grade," said Shannon McLinden, an author on the subject and a speaker on teenage confidence.

"The change comes at a time when being your own person and trying to stand on your own feet is really important."

The new study also showed that for boys and girls, the top indicator of whether youngsters begin drinking or smoking is whether they have friends who do, Simons-Morton said. The conclusion remains true regardless of whether the friends are overtly pressuring the teenager, the study reports

"We found that the single most important factor is the behavior of their five closest friends," said Simons-Morton. "These teens are nine times more likely to smoke than early adolescents who had no friends that smoke or drink."

Parents Don't Care

The finding suggests that traditional images of peer pressure a dare given at a party, or a joke made at the expense of a nondrinker may not always be the prime catalyst for a young persons decision.

Instead, Simons-Morton said, many teens seem to mimic the behavior of friends.

Also impacting the situation: most teens who drink and smoke think their parents dont care.