PLoS One. 2021 Apr 16;16(4):e0250169. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0250169. eCollection 2021.
OBJECTIVES: To measure the effects of peer influence and peer selection on drinking behavior in adolescence through a rigorous statistical approach designed to unravel these interrelated processes.
METHODS: We conducted systematic searches of electronic databases, thesis collections and conference proceedings to identify studies that used longitudinal network design and stochastic actor-oriented modeling to analyze drinking behavior in adolescents. Parameter estimates collected from individual studies were analyzed using multilevel random-effects models.
RESULTS: We identified 26 articles eligible for meta-analysis. Meta-analyses for different specifications of the peer influence effect were conducted separately. The peer influence effect was positive for every specification: for average similarity (avSim) mean log odds ratio was 1.27 with 95% confidence interval [0.04; 2.49]; for total similarity (totSim) 0.46 (95% CI = [0.44; 0.48]), and for average alter (avAlt) 0.70 (95% CI = [-0.01; 1.41]). The peer selection effect (simX) was also positive: 0.46 (95% CI = [0.28; 0.63]). Conversion log odds ratio values to Cohen’s d gives estimates from 0.25 to 0.70, which is considered as medium to large effect.
CONCLUSIONS: Advances in methodology for social network analysis have made it possible to accurately estimate peer influence effects free from peer selection effects. More research is necessary to clarify the roles of age, gender, and individual susceptibility on the changing behavior of adolescents under the influence of their peers. Understanding the effects of peer influence should inform practitioners and policy makers to design and deliver more effective prevention programs.