The investigators found that kids' smoking behavior is significantly affected by the habits of their peers and their parents in both middle school and high school. The influence of friends, however, is stronger in middle school. Although parents' influence started to decrease in the final two years of high school, it did not change between middle school and high school.
Among students in grades 9 and 10, girls were more affected by their friends' smoking behavior than boys, the researchers noted. As they advanced to 10th and 12th grades, however, friends and parents had less influence on girls. Meanwhile, boys at this age were increasingly swayed by their friends' smoking habits.
"Boys tend to foster friendship by engaging in shared behaviors, whereas girls are more focused on emotional sharing," Liao explained. "So, it is possible that boys are adopting their friends' risky behaviors, like smoking, as the groups grow together over time."
The study authors concluded their findings could aid in the development of teen anti-smoking programs.
"We observed a big dip in friends' effect on smoking behavior from eighth to ninth grade. Thus, the first year of high school represents an opportunity for interventions to counteract peer influence and to continue to target parents as their behavior remains influential through the end of high school," Liao said in the news release. "In addition, teaching students refusal skills during junior high school could be effective in decreasing cigarette use at the beginning of high school. Programs could also promote positive parenting skills to protect children from deviant peer influence."
The researchers noted that more research is needed to explor
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