Parents’ smoking behavior influences their teens’ decisions about cigarette use throughout high school, a new study suggests. Peer pressure to smoke is greater during middle school than high school, according to researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.
The findings indicate smoking intervention programs designed to counteract peer pressure to smoke should be aimed at middle school students, instead of high school students, the researchers report in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The findings on peer pressure were surprising to the researchers, HealthDay reports. “We thought friends would have more influence on cigarette use during high school than junior high school,” said study author Yue Liao. “But what we found was friends have greater influence during junior high school than high school. We think the reason may be that friends’ cigarette use behavior may have a stronger influence on youth who start smoking at a younger age,” she noted in a press release. “During high school, cigarette use might represent the maintenance of behavior rather than a result of peer influence.”
The study included 1,000 teens who were first questioned in seventh grade. They were reassessed after six months, and then annually until they were in twelfth grade. They answered questions about how many of their close friends and parents smoked, and how many cigarettes they themselves had smoked in the past month. They saw a large decrease in friends’ influence from eighth to ninth grade.