High Peer Popularity Longitudinally Predicts Adolescent Health Risk Behavior, or Does It?: An Examination of Linear and Quadratic Associations

Prinstein, Mitchell J.; Choukas-Bradley, Sophia C.; Helms, Sarah W.; Brechwald, Whitney A.; Rancourt, Diana
October 2011
Journal of Pediatric Psychology;Oct2011, Vol. 36 Issue 9, p980
Academic Journal
Objective In contrast to prior work, recent theory suggests that high, not low, levels of adolescent peer popularity may be associated with health risk behavior. This study examined (a) whether popularity may be uniquely associated with cigarette use, marijuana use, and sexual risk behavior, beyond the predictive effects of aggression; (b) whether the longitudinal association between popularity and health risk behavior may be curvilinear; and (c) gender moderation. Methods A total of 336 adolescents, initially in 10–11th grades, reported cigarette use, marijuana use, and number of sexual intercourse partners at two time points 18 months apart. Sociometric peer nominations were used to examine popularity and aggression. Results Longitudinal quadratic effects and gender moderation suggest that both high and low levels of popularity predict some, but not all, health risk behaviors. Conclusions New theoretical models can be useful for understanding the complex manner in which health risk behaviors may be reinforced within the peer context.


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