School of Public Health, Health Promotion Department, Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa, Eshkol Building, Room 705, Mount Carmel 3190501, Haifa, Israel
*Corresponding author Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This review examines the limited, albeit growing research literature related to peer social networks and adolescent alcohol use. Specifically, the literature review examines what types of alcohol use has been examined in relation to social network structures, how social network structures are related to adolescent alcohol use and the implications for public health.
Materials and methods
A search on PubMed and Sociological Abstracts was conducted to identify relevant keywords contained in the title, abstract and subject descriptors. Searches included combinations of the following terms: alcohol, binge drinking, substance use, social network, friendship network, peer influences, youth and adolescents.
This review shows that while studies have generally examined moderate alcohol use, initiation and heavy use have been less studied. In terms of social network structures, researchers have mainly focused on influence/selection, network relation type and sociometric positions. While the literature is often ambiguous in terms of the association between network structures and adolescent alcohol use, there are some instances where the literature paints a coherent picture. The literature tends to agreethat both selection and influence is important when explaining peer similarity in alcohol use and popular adolescents tend to be at risk foralcohol use.
Based on the literature reviewed, this paper offers fourrecommendations for future social network research that may help fill current gaps in the literature: (1) focus more on harmful use of alcohol and alcohol initiation, (2) determine whether resistance skills work differently based on network relation type, (3) focus more on how adolescent social networks are formed and how these formation processes influence adolescent alcohol use and (4) examine whether use of network data can support peer-led alcohol use interventions and identification of peer leaders.
The limited available literature suggests that there are significant structural and alcohol use aspects of peer relations that are important to adolescent alcohol use. Future research should continue to apply social network analysis to the study of adolescent alcohol use to improve the knowledge which can be used to develop better prevention and intervention programs to reduce alcohol-related harm.