Drinking buddies: Who are they and when do they matter?

Cathy Lau-Barraco, Ashley N. Linden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The present study sought to further examine the role of peers on alcohol use and problems among young adults. In particular, we focused on a specific subset of peers in one's social network mostly for activities related to alcohol use called "drinking buddies." The presence of drinking buddies in one's social network has been shown to predict heavy drinking uniquely over time but few studies have focused on potential factors moderating the relationship. Consequently, an aim of present study was to examine the influence of drinking buddies on alcohol outcomes and the extent to which the relationship may be dependent on one's normative perceptions. Another aim was to provide a descriptive examination of drinking buddies. Participants were college students (n=250; 72.8% women) who completed self-report measures of alcohol use and problems, injunctive norms, descriptive norms and social network characteristics. Results showed that descriptive norms moderated the relationship between drinking buddies and all alcohol outcomes assessed. Specifically, the influence of drinking buddies was stronger for those who perceived a lower prevalence of peer drinking. Examination of drinking buddies characteristics revealed that these peers tended to be young adults who were moderate social drinkers with whom they felt close and perceived to be available for concrete and emotional support. Several differences emerged between the drinking buddies of heavy versus non-heavy drinkers. The present study contributed to the larger body of work on peer influence and alcohol use by examining a specific subgroup of peers that may promote risky drinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-67
Number of pages11
JournalAddiction Research and Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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