Peer ecology of male adolescent drug use

Thomas J. Dishion, Deborah Capaldi, Kathleen M. Spracklen, Fuzhong li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

391 Scopus citations


This report represents the perspective that adolescent substance use is best understood as an adaptation to an ecology defined jointly by families and peers. Hypotheses were tested on a sample of 206 boys in the Oregon Youth Study. The analyses proceeded in four steps. First, it was found that the transition from middle to high school was a period of rapid growth in smoking for boys with a prior history of low sociometric status. Second, a structural equation model was tested showing that deviant peer association in early adolescence mediated the relation between peer and family experiences in middle childhood and later substance use. Third, an observational study of the boys with their best friends revealed that active support for rule breaking and substance use was associated with immediate escalation in substance use during the transition to high school. Finally, it was found that ineffective parental monitoring practices were highly associated with the boy's involvement in a deviant peer network. In fact, a high degree of similarity was found between boys and their best friends for substance use when parental monitoring was low. These analyses show that substance use in adolescence is embedded within the proximal peer environment, which in turn, emerges and is amplified within a context of low adult involvement and monitoring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)803-824
Number of pages22
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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