Even when just considering the time adolescents spend with their peers, it really shouldnt be too surprising the impact and influence adolescent peers can have on one another. Cross-behavior analyses of five activities”alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, marijuana use, tobacco chewing and the adolescents introduction to sex were analyzed in a longitudinal study conducted by The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The study found that adolescents were twice as likely to engage in a risk behavior if their friend engaged in it also. The study found that peer influence can be both beneficial and harmful.
In the use of cigarettes and marijuana, there was only influence to initiate the behavior. However, for alcohol consumption, the study showed that there was equal influence to conform to friends who drank and to conform to friends who did not drink. Whereas with tobacco chewing, there was shown to be significantly more peer pressure to stop chewing than to begin chewing. This was used as evidence that teens also can protect their peers in risk activities. One of the results the study showed was, not too surprisingly, that best friends were more influential than close peers.
The study concludes to say that peer influence is a real phenomenon that takes on varying roles across adolescent risk behavior (Maxwell, 2000, p. 1). This includes the physical, cognitive, social and personality development of the teen. As far as the ways parent-child relationships have more/less influence, I read some additional research in this specific area. In research conducted by Barnes, Hoffman, Welte, Farrell and Dintcheff, (Barnes, 2006), 6 sets of data were analyzed including interviews of 506 adolescents to determine how parental support and monitoring influenced adolescent behavior.
The results of the study concluded that effective parenting and adolescents avoidance of associations with delinquent peers proved to be important factors which correlate with the decrease of alcohol misuse, other substance use, and delinquency (Barnes, 2006). Some studies I read through seem to reiterate that parents often wait for the right time to influence adolescents. However, in reading through the various research, it seems to indicate that those parents who remain open to communication with their children all along will have greater influence in their adolescents choices.
For example, in an article I read titled, Parents Communication with Adolescents about Sexual Behavior: A Missed Opportunity for Prevention, (Eisenberg, 2006), it stated that parents often wait to talk to their teens about sex at the time they know their adolescent is in a romantic relationship. However, the article examined how it is not parallel when the teen stated they had their first sexual experience and when the parent(s) states they believe their teen will or has had his or her first sexual experience.
In the various readings I have researched for this essay, I have seen this to be the case with most things in general. Often the parents believe the adolescent doesnt know or hasnt experienced various things when the teen states they have. The research I have read does indicate that peers can influence their adolescent peers in a variety of ways depending upon other factors. In the research I have also found that how a parent can influence their adolescent usually begins a long time before they are adolescents and can vary from person to person.