Preventing Adolescent Substance Use: A Content Analysis of Peer Processes Targeted Within Universal School-Based Programs

Angela K. Henneberger, Scott D. Gest, Kathleen M. Zadzora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Universal school-based substance use prevention programs are widely disseminated and often include a focus on peer relationships. Network theory and social network analysis (SNA) have emerged as useful theoretical and methodological frameworks for examining the role of peer relationships in prevention and intervention research. We used content analysis to systematically code the peer processes targeted by three universal school based prevention programs. We found that programs focused on peer socialization more than peer selection, and programs focused about evenly on descriptive and injunctive norms. Programs varied in their focus on positive and negative peer processes and behaviors, but most references to peer processes focused on positive processes and negative behaviors. The focus on peer processes at the dyadic, subgroup, and network levels varied across the three programs, with the heaviest focus on network level processes. When peer processes were targeted, it was rare that lessons focused on peer processes for an extended (> 50%) amount of the lesson content. However, when peer processes were a focus, discussion and reflection were commonly encouraged. These patterns are considered in the context of non-intervention research on adolescent peer relations, which highlights the importance of peer selection and dyad-level processes, and the existence of positive peer processes that promote adolescent development. In doing so, we provide a framework that can be used to (1) examine the extent to which a particular program focuses on the different peer processes, and (2) inform systematic experimental studies of the extent to which particular peer processes are malleable in response to intervention efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-230
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Primary Prevention
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 15 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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