The Role of Social Position Within Peer Groups in Distress-Motivated Smoking Among Adolescents

Veronica T. Cole, Andrea M. Hussong, Daniel M. McNeish, Susan T. Ennett, W. Andrew Rothenberg, Nisha C. Gottfredson, Robert W. Faris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: The relationship between smoking and adolescents’ peer relationships is complex, with studies showing increased risk of smoking for adolescents of both very high and very low social position. A key question is whether the impact of social position on smoking depends on an adolescent’s level of coping motives (i.e., their desire to use smoking to mitigate negative affect). Method: We assessed how social position predicts nicotine dependence in a longitudinal sample (N = 3,717; 44.8% male; mean age = 13.41 years) of adolescent lifetime smokers measured between 6th and 12th grades. Using both social network analysis and multilevel modeling, we assessed this question at the between-person and within-person level, hypothesizing that within-person decreases in social position would lead to increased risk of nicotine dependence among those with high levels of coping motives. Results: In contrast to our hypotheses, only interactions with the between-person measures of social position were found, with a slight negative relationship at low levels of coping motives. In addition, the main effect of coping motives was considerably stronger than that of social position at the between-person level, and social position had no significant within-person main effect on nicotine dependence risk. Conclusions: These results suggest that adolescents with higher overall levels of social position among their peers may have slightly decreased risk for nicotine dependence, but only when coping motives are low. Counter to expectations, higher levels of nicotine dependence risk were not linked to fluctuations in social position. (J. Stud. Alcohol Drugs, 83, 420–429, 2022).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)420-429
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of studies on alcohol and drugs
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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