Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

miliar peers. In these situations, they are left to estimate how others typically behave and what they think. The outcome may be overestimates of others’ drinking and acceptance of such behavior, leading them to believe that the norm is to drink and that they should do it, too. However, providing adolescents with more realistic information about the extent to which people drink alcohol may not by itself reduce alcohol consumption. Instead, a focus on injunctive norms—views concerning what others think about one’s drinking—might be more effective (Cialdini et al., 1990; Kallgren et al., 2000; Prentice and Miller, 1993).

Social Situations

The social situations in which adolescents find themselves also change during this period. Indeed, movement toward autonomy is accompanied by real and perceived changes in the social world as adolescents mature. Most move from environments in which they are protected, scheduled, and dominated by adults into environments that are primarily populated with other adolescents and in which they actually have much more autonomy. On average, middle-class adolescents spend about 20 percent of their time with parents and other relatives, 25 percent of their time alone, and the rest with friends and classmates (Csikszentmihalyi and Larson, 1984). Younger adolescents report that television and home- and family-centered activities fill much of their leisure time, but this shifts dramatically as they get older and report that peer-focused and solitary activities fill most of their time (Larson and Kleiber, 1990). Thus, as adolescents get older, they spend greater periods of their leisure time away from adult supervision, increasing the opportunities for becoming involved in such risk-taking behaviors as drinking alcohol.

In addition to the actual changes in supervision, teens are much more focused on real or imagined peer norms. They are most likely to attend to the standards set by their friends than by another same-age group. The often reported, “peer pressure” is, in reality, “friend pressure.” As adolescents get older, they are more likely to choose friends who share their tastes and interests than when they were younger. Thus, they are likely to join crowds of teens who have similar values and life-styles. Crowd membership has been associated with alcohol consumption: some crowds or groups include drinking as part of how they spend their time, and an adolescent’s choice to be involved in that crowd will include the knowledge that drinking is a typical activity for that group (Prinstein et al., 1996). For example, participation in competitive sports in high school has been related to higher rates of alcohol use (Eccles and Barber, 1999).

Unfortunately, information about a particular group’s norms may not be available until after an adolescent has had one or more experiences with

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement