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Eur Psychiatry. 2011 Jan;26(1):6-12. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2010.09.002. Epub 2010 Nov 9.

With friends like these…: peer delinquency influences across age cohorts on smoking, alcohol and illegal substance use.

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Department of Behavioral, Applied Sciences & Criminal Justice, Texas A&M International University, Laredo, TX 78045, USA.



Discussions and debate about youth smoking, alcohol use, and illegal substance use (collectively referred to as youth substance use) continue to receive wide attention among researchers, policymakers, and the general public. Previous research has suggested that peer delinquency is a particularly strong correlate of youth substance use. The current study focuses on the influence of delinquent peers on substance use, and how peer delinquency influences change across age cohorts of youth.


The current study examines multiple correlates for youth substance use in a sample of 8,256 youth (mean age 14), with the goal of identifying the influence of delinquent peers across age cohorts while controlling for other correlates. Data was collected from the Ohio version of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) developed by the Centers for Disease Control.


Results from multiple regression analyses identified peer delinquency as the strongest correlate of youth substance use even when other relevant factors related to family, neighborhood, and media use were controlled. Correlations between peer delinquency and substance use behavior increased across age cohorts and for individuals who first used in middle teen years (13-16) irrespective of current age.


Age appears to be a moderating factor regarding the correlation between peer delinquency and youth substance abuse. Primary and secondary prevention and intervention strategies that focus on peers are potentially more likely to reduce youth substance use and improve peer relationships than those focused on other areas such as schools or media.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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