Peer social network and adolescent alcohol use

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This review examines the limited,
albeit growing research literature
related to peer social networks and
adolescent alcohol use. Specifically, the literature review examines
what types of alcohol use have been
examined in relation to social network structures, how social network
structures are related to adolescent
alcohol use and the implications for
public health.
Materials and methods
A search on PubMed and Sociological Abstracts was conducted to identify relevant keywords contained
in the title, abstract and subject
descriptors. Searches included combinations of the following terms:
alcohol, binge drinking, substance
use, social network, friendship network, peer influences, youth and
This review shows that while
studies have generally examined
moderate alcohol use, initiation and
heavy use have been less studied. In
terms of social network structures,
researchers have mainly focused on
influence/selection, network relation type and sociometric positions.
While the literature is often ambiguous in terms of the association
between network structures and
adolescent alcohol use, there are
some instances where the literature paints a coherent picture. The
literature tends to agree that both
selection and influence is important when explaining peer similarity in alcohol use and popular
adolescents tend to be at risk for
alcohol use.
Based on the literature reviewed, this
paper offers four recommendations
for future social network research
that may help fill current gaps in the
literature: (1) focus more on harmful
use of alcohol and alcohol initiation,
(2) determine whether resistance
skills work differently based on network relation type, (3) focus more
on how adolescent social networks
are formed and how these formation
processes influence adolescent alcohol use and (4) examine whether use
of network data can support peer-led
alcohol use interventions and identification of peer leaders.
The limited available literature
suggests that there are significant
structural and alcohol use aspects
of peer relations that are important
to adolescent alcohol use. Future
research should continue to apply
social network analysis to the study
of adolescent alcohol use to improve
the knowledge which can be used to
develop better prevention and intervention programs to reduce alcohol
related harm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalOA Alcohol
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2013


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