The protective role of school friendship ties for substance use and aggressive behaviors among middle school students.J Sch Health. 2015 Feb; 85(2):82-9.JS
Few studies have examined the interplay among quantifiable aspects of peer bonds, friendship types, personal characteristics, and behavioral outcomes in schools in distressed neighborhoods. The aim of this study was to identify compensatory and protective factors that can be promoted in school-based prevention programs.
The sample was comprised of students in East Los Angeles County (N=184). We investigated the association between 3 measures of social influence (friends in gangs, nominations of schoolmates as friends [out-degree], and the number of nominations received from schoolmates [in-degree]) and social self-control with lifetime alcohol, tobacco, inhalant, "other" drug use, and aggression.
Friendships were protective for substance use and aggression and moderated the relationship between social self-control, substance use, and aggression. We found important sex differences; girls who nominated more friends were less likely to report alcohol use and aggression relative to boys but were more likely to have reported drug use as social self-control scores increased.
Our results have important implications for school-based prevention and intervention programs. We provide preliminary evidence that school ties and perceptions of belongingness can mitigate the effects of several risk factors linked to substance use and aggression.