Most peer influence research examines socialization between adolescents and their best friends. Yet, adolescents also are influenced by popular peers, perhaps due to misperceptions of social norms. This research examined the extent to which out-group and in-group adolescents misperceive the frequencies of peers' deviant, health risk, and adaptive behaviors in different reputation-based peer crowds (Study 1) and the prospective associations between perceptions of high-status peers' and adolescents' own substance use over 2.5 years (Study 2). Study 1 examined 235 adolescents' reported deviant (vandalism, theft), health risk (substance use, sexual risk), and adaptive (exercise, studying) behavior, and their perceptions of jocks', populars', burnouts', and brains' engagement in the same behaviors. Peer nominations identified adolescents in each peer crowd. Jocks and populars were rated as higher status than brains and burnouts. Results indicated that peer crowd stereotypes are caricatures. Misperceptions of high-status crowds were dramatic, but for many behaviors, no differences between populars'/jocks' and others' actual reported behaviors were revealed. Study 2 assessed 166 adolescents' substance use and their perceptions of popular peers' (i.e., peers high in peer perceived popularity) substance use. Parallel process latent growth analyses revealed that higher perceptions of popular peers' substance use in Grade 9 (intercept) significantly predicted steeper increases in adolescents' own substance use from Grade 9 to 11 (slope). Results from both studies, utilizing different methods, offer evidence to suggest that adolescents misperceive high-status peers' risk behaviors, and these misperceptions may predict adolescents' own risk behavior engagement.
- risk behavior
- substance use
- social norms
- peer crowds
Helms, S. W., Choukas-Bradley, S., Widman, L., Giletta, M., Cohen, G. L., & Prinstein, M. J. (2014). Adolescents misperceive and are influenced by high-status peers' health risk, deviant, and adaptive behavior. Developmental Psychology, 50(12), 2697-2714. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038178