Why Dutch Adolescents Start to Smoke: Peer Influence Versus Peer Selection Processes.

L.A.G. Mercken, Tom Snijders, Christian Steglich, H. de Vries

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterAcademic


The social influence paradigm assumes that social influences, in particular influences from peers, play an important role in the development of smoking behavior in adolescence. However, adolescents also tend to acquire new
friends with similar beliefs and behaviors. Therefore, similarities in behavior can be the result of interpersonal selection processes. The goal of this study is to disentangle
social influence processes from social selection processes
regarding smoking initiation. Many social influence studies
studies could not control for friend selection as an alternative explanation since assessment of selection effects requires specific designs and measures. Information of adolescents is required at different time points, as well as data
on changes and stability in behaviors and social networks.
The data we analyze were collected in the ESFA (European Smoking prevention Framework Approach) project, a
large longitudinal study on smoking initiation among adolescents, in which also friendship networks within the
year-group at school were assessed. We analyze the data
using two methods: structural equation modeling (as implemented in LISREL) and actor-driven modeling of social
network evolution (as implemented in SIENA). These
methods differ strongly in terms of data requirements as
well as explanatory focus, and the ESFA data provide a
unique opportunity for comparing them.
The presentation will cover relevant theories regarding
social influence processes and selection processes followed
by an explanation of the different methods used. We will
then discuss our findings and close the presentation with
an overall conclusion and some recommendations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes
EventThe International Sunbelt Social Network Conference - Corfu, Greece
Duration: 1 May 20076 May 2007


ConferenceThe International Sunbelt Social Network Conference
Abbreviated titleSUNBELT XXVII


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