Smoking-based selection and influence in gender-segregated friendship networks: a social network analysis of adolescent smoking

Liesbeth Mercken*, Tom A. B. Snijders, Christian Steglich, Erkki Vertiainen, Hein de Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aims The main goal of this study was to examine differences between adolescent male and female friendship networks regarding smoking-based selection and influence processes using newly developed social network analysis methods that allow the current state of continuously changing friendship networks to act as a dynamic constraint for changes in smoking behaviour, while allowing current smoking behaviour to be simultaneously a dynamic constraint for changes in friendship networks. Design Longitudinal design with four measurements. Setting Nine junior high schools in Finland. Participants A total of 1163 adolescents (mean age = 13.6 years) who participated in the control group of the ESFA (European Smoking prevention Framework Approach) study, including 605 males and 558 females. Measurements Smoking behaviour of adolescents, parents, siblings and friendship ties. Findings Smoking-based selection of friends was found in male as well as female networks. However, support for influence among friends was found only in female networks. Furthermore, females and males were both influenced by parental smoking behaviour. Conclusions In Finnish adolescents, both male and female smokers tend to select other smokers as friends but it appears that only females are influenced to smoke by their peer group. This suggests that prevention campaigns targeting resisting peer pressure may be more effective in adolescent girls than boys.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1280-1289
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


  • Adolescent smoking
  • gender differences
  • peer influence
  • peer selection
  • social networks

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