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Keywords:

  • Adolescence;
  • dating;
  • peer networks;
  • substance use;
  • tobacco

Abstract

Aims

The current report examined associations between romantic partner, peer and individual substance use behaviors in a sample of American adolescents.

Design

The report used two waves of data (8th and 9th grades) from the Partnerships to Enhance Resilience (PROSPER) intervention project and focused on dating couples and their friends in 54 sampled school-cohorts. Hierarchical logistic regression models examined the associations between friend, partner and friend-of-partner substance use and daters' future drinking and smoking.

Setting

Surveys administered in rural Pennsylvania and Iowa secondary schools.

Participants

A total of 744 dating couples.

Measurements

Student participants completed questionnaires that assessed substance use, background characteristics and dating and friend nominations. Friend, partner and friend-of-partner substance use were assessed at each wave directly from respective reports.

Findings

Consistent with a bridging hypothesis, friends-of-partner drinking had a strong and independent association with subsequent drunkenness (b = 1.40, P < 0.01) and drinking (b = 0.82, P < 0.01) among daters, and these associations did not vary by gender. A similar association was not observed for smoking, where partner (b = 0.77, P < 0.01) and direct friends (b = 1.19, P < 0.05) smoking showed strong and significant associations with future smoking, but friends-of-partner smoking did not (b = −0.44, P > 0.10).

Conclusion

Romantic partner and peer behaviors have substantially different associations with adolescent drinking and smoking. Intervention efforts aimed at reducing teenage smoking should be aimed at proximal peer and romantic relationships, whereas interventions of teenage drinking should also include the wider circle of indirect friends.