The effect of peer influence and selection processes on adolescent alcohol use: a systematic review of longitudinal studies Academic Article uri icon


  • Adolescent alcohol use remains an important public health concern. One of the most salient and consistent predictors for drinking behaviour among young people is peer influence. A systematic review of longitudinal studies that examined the effect of peer influence on adolescent alcohol use between January 1997 and February 2011 is presented. Twenty-two studies fulfilled inclusion criteria and were reviewed. All but one study confirmed affiliation with alcohol-using or deviant peers as prospective predictors for the development of adolescent alcohol use. Findings revealed that existing longitudinal studies that have used multivariate analytic techniques to segregate peer influence (whereby adolescents start drinking after exposure to alcohol-using friends) and peer selection (whereby adolescents that start drinking without alcohol-using friends subsequently seek out drinking peers) effects consistently report significant peer influence effects. However, studies are unable to elucidate the relative contribution and developmental sequence of peer influence and selection. Existing research is synthesised to model the developmental influence of peer processes on adolescent alcohol use. Future research directions are recommended to inform better designed investigations that can lead to more effective endeavours to address peer processes in prevention efforts.

publication date

  • 2014