The interactions of adolescent peers are the subject of both parental angst and scholarly attention. Peer influence is the most consistent predictor of adolescent drinking patterns when controlling for other background characteristics. This study extends these findings to incorporate a theoretical argument derived from status characteristics theory. Using 2,980 best-friend dyads constructed from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health ("Add Health"), I show that the peer influence process differs by the gender structure of the friendship. Adolescents in same-sex best friendships influence one another mutually, consistent with prior theoretical and empirical approaches to adolescent problem behavior. By contrast, boys in mixed-sex best friendships have influence over their female friends 'drinking patterns, while the girls do not have any effect on their male friends' drinking behavior, a finding consistent with status characteristics theory. The results indicate that peer influence models that do not take gender into account in the structure of the friendship misrepresent the unequal influence dynamics between boys and girls.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health