When peer pressure actually works to your advantage

No matter who you are, peer pressure is just a part of life, and sometimes that can really be a bummer. However, it looks like peer pressure could actually be a positive thing in some situations. A recent study suggests that teens may be less likely to drink and smoke if their friends participate in substance abuse prevention programs. Apparently, your peers could actually really help you out.

Researchers focused on sixth graders who attended schools that offered seven weeks of counseling to see if kids who didn’t participate in this program might still benefit from it. Three years later, in ninth grade, the students who didn’t attend the counseling sessions were 40% more likely to drink and more than twice as likely to smoke if none of their friends went through the program either, compared with those who skipped the program but had at least three friends who did participate.

Kelly Rullison, lead author of the study and a researcher in public health and education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, said, “Adolescents are often influenced by their friends. Teens whose friends participated in a family-based substance use prevention program benefited from the program even though their own families didn’t participate.”

In order to see if teens cautioned against drinking and smoking might influence their friends to abstain, Rulison followed 5,449 students who didn’t participate in counseling that was offered at their schools. During sixth grade, students who joined the program went through seven weeks of counseling with their parents. Together, parents and children explored ways to improve communication and cohesiveness within their families. Researchers also surveyed teens who didn’t participate in these sessions, questioning them about drug and tobacco use, as well as asking them to name up to two best friends and up to five other close friends.

The study showed that after time, teens who had more friends in the program were much less likely to drink or smoke than their peers who didn’t have any. When you think about how important your friendships are, it isn’t all that surprising that some teens may be able to sway their friends away from risky behavior.

(Images via iStockPhoto and giphy)