Friend influence over adolescent problem behaviors as a function of relative peer acceptance: to be liked is to be emulated

J Abnorm Psychol. 2012 Feb;121(1):88-94. doi: 10.1037/a0024707. Epub 2011 Aug 8.


Friend influence over alcohol intoxication and delinquent behavior was examined as a function of relative peer acceptance in a 3-year study of Swedish youth (N = 184 girls, 145 boys). Participants were in the first year of secondary school (7th grade, M = 11.7 years old) or the first year of high school (10th grade, M = 15.3 years old) at the outset. Friends resembled one another before the friendship; resemblances were even greater after the friendship began. Resemblances continued to grow among those who remained friends one year later, but declined among those whose friendships dissolved. Partners were not equally responsible for increases in similarity. In stable friendships, the more accepted partner exerted greater influence over the less accepted partner, such that the greatest increases in problem behaviors were found among less accepted youth whose friends had higher initial levels of delinquency and alcohol intoxication. Unstable friends resembled random pairs of youth in that more- and less-accepted partners were comparably uninfluential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Friends / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology*
  • Male
  • Peer Group*
  • Sweden