Social image factors as motivators of smoking initiation in early and middle adolescence

Child Dev. 1982 Dec;53(6):1499-511.


The social image of the smoker may be particularly important for the process of adolescent smoking initiation. With that in mind, the present study had 2 goals: (1) to assess the social image of cigarette smoking among early and middle nonsmoking adolescents, and (2) to determine whether that social image serves to motivate smoking initiation. Based on considerations of self-esteem and susceptibility to social influence, social image factors were predicted to be related to intentions to smoke more for early adolescents and for girls. Results indicated that the social image of both male and female smokers was an ambivalent one for both early and middle adolescents. Smoking models were rated as having many undesirable qualities, but also several social assets. In terms of the relationship of the social image to smoking intentions, early adolescent girls had intentions that were best predicted by the perceived negative qualities of smoking. For middle adolescents, smoking intentions were related to the positive social assets of smoking, especially interest in the opposite sex. These results suggest that prevention strategies for early adolescent girls focus on the negative results of smoking. On the other hand, strategies for middle adolescents should either attack the positive image of the smoker or provide alternative means of self-image improvement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Psychology, Child
  • Semantic Differential
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking*
  • Social Desirability
  • Social Perception*