Social Goals and Grade as Moderators of Social Normative Influences on Adolescent Alcohol Use.Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2015 Dec; 39(12):2455-62.AC
The literature distinguishes 2 types of social normative influences on adolescent alcohol use, descriptive norms (perceived peer alcohol use) and injunctive norms (perceived approval of drinking). Although theoretical formulations suggest variability in the salience and influence of descriptive and injunctive norms, little is understood regarding for whom and when social norms influence adolescent drinking. Strong agentic and communal social goals were hypothesized to moderate the influence of descriptive and injunctive norms on early adolescent alcohol use, respectively. Developmental changes were also expected, such that these moderating effects were expected to get stronger at later grades.
This longitudinal study included 387 adolescents and 4 annual assessments (spanning 6th to 10th grade). Participants completed questionnaire measures of social goals, social norms, and alcohol use at each wave.
Multilevel logistic regressions were used to test prospective associations. As hypothesized, descriptive norms predicted increases in the probability of alcohol use for adolescents with strong agentic goals, but only in later grades. Injunctive norms were associated with increases in the probability of drinking for adolescents with low communal goals at earlier grades, whereas injunctive norms were associated with an increased probability of drinking for adolescents with either low or high communal goals at later grades. Although not hypothesized, descriptive norms predicted increases in the probability of drinking for adolescents high in communal goals in earlier grades, whereas descriptive norms predicted drinking for adolescents characterized by low communal goals in later grades.
The current study highlights the importance of social goals when considering social normative influences on alcohol use in early and middle adolescence. These findings have implications for whom and when normative feedback interventions might be most effective during this developmental period.