In their study, the authors also found that before getting together, adolescent dating partners share few of the same friends and that an adolescent's friends are likely to be the same gender as he or she. "Couples often come from different friendship groups," said Kreager.
These results support the idea that the peer contexts of dating expose adolescents to new opportunities and norms that influence their own drinking behavior, while also increasing opposite-gender friendship ties and expanding early adolescent mixed-gender peer groups, according to the authors.
Still, Kreager said, it's important to note that although the drinking habits of a romantic partner's friends are more likely to impact an adolescent's future drinking than are the behaviors of an adolescent's own friends or significant other, the adolescent's friends and partner are likely to be influential nonetheless.
Interestingly, the research indicates limited gender differences in observed associations. "Consistent with prior literature, our findings indicate that girls are significantly less likely than their male partners to binge drink," Kreager said. "However, we find that connections with drinking friends, romantic partners, and friends-of partners have similar positive associations with the drinking habits of boys and girls. Moreover, our research suggests that, if anything, males are more susceptible to a significant other's influence than are girls."
In terms of policy implications, Kreager said, "The study demonstrates the need for educators and policymakers to more closely examine dating and the people dating puts adolescents in contact with when they consider interventions to address drinking behaviors, attitudes, and opportunities."
|Contact: Daniel Fowler|
American Sociological Association