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dormitory than if they live off campus, even after controlling for other factors (such as age) that might explain this difference.

Social Setting

While adolescents are experiencing community-level influences related to the place of alcohol in our society, each adolescent is also making decisions about drinking within a particular social setting. Of particular importance with regard to social influences are adolescents’ peers and friendship networks and their changing relationships with their parents. The effect of parents’ and peers’ alcohol consumption on adolescents’ drinking patterns is both direct, through observation and modeling (Bandura, 1986) and indirect, through its influence on alcohol-related expectancies and attitudes (see Kuther, 2002, for a review).


Adolescents in the United States spend approximately twice as much time with peers as they spend with parents or other adults. Accordingly, peers are a major source of socialization and development for adolescents. Research supports the notion that both selection and socialization factors contribute to observed similarities in behavior among friends. That is, adolescents are influenced by the normative behaviors of their peers and they choose peers who reinforce their own norms and values (Kandel, 1978). The influences of peers are both direct and indirect (Bauman et al., 1989; Biddle et al., 1980; Ennett and Bauman 1991; Pruitt et al., 1991; Kandel and Logen, 1984). That is, adolescents are influenced directly (e.g., by observing peers’ behavior or by peer pressure) and indirectly (e.g., by their perceptions of the extent to which their friends are drinking alcohol). The combination of the normative aspect of alcohol use and peer influences on underage alcohol use is also important. Youth are well aware of the normative nature of alcohol use, and they usually want to go along with their peer group (Aas and Klepp, 1992; Barnes et al., 1995; Beck and Treiman, 1996; Olds and Thombs, 2001). Perceived use of alcohol by one’s peers and friends independently predicts self-reported alcohol use (e.g., Olds and Thombs, 2001; Reifman et al., 1998), with peers having a greater influence on adolescent drinking than do parents (Kuther, 2002).

It should be noted, however, that interventions that attempt to prevent or reduce alcohol consumption by focusing on changing perceptions of social norms must proceed cautiously. Research conducted by Cialdini and colleagues (Cialdini et al., 1990; Kallgren et al., 2000) points to the need to distinguish between descriptive norms (perceptions of what most others are doing) and injunctive norms (perception of what other people think one

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