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An examination of the pressure of social situations

Child Development Research

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution Licensewhich permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Abstract The aim of this study was to further our understanding of the link between social anxiety and substance use in adolescents, in particular the role susceptibility to peer pressure plays in this link.

The relation between social anxiety and susceptibility to peer pressure was studied in two community samples and each consisting of two age groups 12-13 and 15—17 years. The relation of these two variables with substance use was evaluated in the second sample using regression analysis.

Social anxiety was related to susceptibility to peer pressure in both groups and not related to substance use in the younger group and negatively related to substance use in the older group.

  1. The instrument used for measuring susceptibility to peer pressure in this study, the RPI, is not specifically asking about peer pressure to take part in negative or antisocial behavior.
  2. They therefore would abstain from using it.
  3. We did not know which role that would be.
  4. The participants came to the laboratory of the university individually and completed a number of questionnaires, among them were the SAS-A [ 40 ] and RPI [ 30 , 31 ] on a PC.
  5. The path from social anxiety through susceptibility to peer pressure and substance use at T1 to substance use at T2 was nearly significant. In an effort to better understand the progression to problematic use cf.

Susceptibility to peer pressure acted as a suppressor in the relation between social anxiety and substance use. Results suggest that socially anxious adolescents basically avoid substance use but, if susceptible, may yield to peer pressure and start using substances.

Parents, teachers, and therapists should be aware of this susceptibility to possibly negative peer pressure of socially anxious adolescents. Introduction Previous studies on the relation between social anxiety and substance use in young individuals have yielded ambiguous results with some studies finding a positive relation [ 12 ] and others finding no relation or a negative one [ 34 ].

However, not all socially anxious individuals meet the criteria for SAD.

  1. Correlations between Main Study Variables Answering research question 1, we found that in Sample 1 susceptibility to peer pressure correlated significantly and positively with social anxiety, and , in the younger and older groups, respectively. In addition, social fears and social anxiety disorder predict later alcohol abuse [ 25 ] and nicotine dependency [ 16 ].
  2. We found that adolescents with higher levels of social anxiety are more susceptible to peer pressure and that susceptibility to peer pressure predicts substance use.
  3. Only those who experience life interference because of distress in and avoidance of social situations are diagnosed with SAD.

Social anxiety is seen as a continuous variable with some individuals having low or average social anxiety levels and others having high to very high levels [ 6 ].

Only those who experience life interference because of distress in and avoidance of social situations are diagnosed with SAD. As far as youth is concerned, social fears are part of the normal development of children and adolescents [ 7 ]. Some of these young individuals are exceptionally anxious and develop high levels of social anxiety or even a social anxiety disorder, most likely in their adolescent years [ 6 ].

A US study found that 8. Generally, drinking, smoking, and drug use start in adolescence [ 11 — 13 ]. An early start of this substance use predicts later dependence and abuse.

An Examination of Social Anxiety in Marijuana and Cigarette Use Motives among Adolescents

For example, youth who start drinking or smoking in early or midadolescence have a higher risk for alcohol use disorder [ 14 ] or daily smoking [ 1516 ] later in life than those who start at a later age. Because substance use frequently starts in adolescence and has consequences for later use or even abuse, it seems very important to learn more about factors that facilitate or impede the beginning of these behaviors in this period of life.

One of the factors that may be related to substance use is social anxiety. Individuals with SAD have higher rates of smoking, drinking, and drug use than non-socially anxious individuals [e. This is also true for individuals with subclinical levels of social anxiety [ 217 ]. In a large epidemiological study among adolescents and adults 15—54 years oldKessler et al.

A prospective study of boys starting in first grade and continuing through high school showed that boys with higher levels of social anxiety started earlier with drinking and smoking but not with using marijuana [ 19 ]. Another prospective study starting with senior high school students found that SAD was a predictor of later alcohol and cannabis dependence [ 20 ].

However, not all studies have found that substance use of young people is associated with social anxiety disorder or social anxiety related symptoms. For example, in children aged 9 to 12 years, a negative relationship was found between internalizing behavior and initiation of alcohol use [ 21 ] and one review concluded that in community samples substance dependency was not related to anxiety disorders in adolescents [ 22 ]. Possibly, socially anxious students avoid social situations like parties where people drink alcohol or abstain from drinking in these situations because they think that the alcohol may lower their self-control and they do not wish to embarrass themselves [ 23 ].

This avoidance of alcohol use would be in line with the self-presentation model developed for shyness [ 24 ]. According to this model, socially anxious individuals would fear that their behavior when drinking alcohol or using drugs might result in negative evaluations by others. They therefore would abstain from using it. The present study aimed to increase our understanding of the association between an examination of the pressure of social situations anxiety and substance use at an early stage of life when drinking, smoking, and drug use are initiated.

In addition, social fears and social anxiety disorder predict later alcohol abuse [ 25 ] and nicotine dependency [ 16 ].

However, a question that has not yet been answered is why some socially anxious adolescents start smoking, drinking, or using drugs while others do not. There is a link between being liked by peers and substance use [ 27 ]. As far as socially anxious youth is concerned, peer pressure has been found to moderate the link between social anxiety disorder and problematic cannabis use [ 26 ].

Apart from the presence of a peer group exerting pressure to drink, smoke, or use drugs, the degree of susceptibility to this peer pressure is probably also important. Being part of a peer group is seen by adolescents as a way to receive support and build friendships [ 28 ]. At this stage of development, susceptibility to peer pressure is particularly high. It is seen as a phase between individuation from parents and reaching a sense of identity [ 29 ]. Susceptibility to peer pressure gradually decreases during adolescence and is lower in boys than in girls [ 3031 ].

Studies on individual differences in susceptibility to peer pressure are few [ 32 ]. One study suggested that susceptibility to peer pressure is linked to genetic factors [ 33 ]. Another study found that susceptibility to peer pressure, in particular the skill to handle deviant peer behavior, is one of the predictors of later substance use in adolescents [ 34 ].

Whether susceptibility to peer pressure is related to social anxiety has, to the best of our knowledge, not yet been studied. However, there are good reasons why such relation is to be an examination of the pressure of social situations.

The fear of isolation and the fear of ridicule may play a role in this relation [ 35 ]. It may be easier for adolescents to resist peer pressure when they are relatively confident about their own social status [ 1736 ]. Adolescents who feel that they are not doing well socially or are socially anxious may be inclined to follow peers, not feeling strong enough, socially, to choose their own route. Consequently, they may join others in substance use hoping to improve their social status and be part of the peer group.

In sum, the present study focused on the role of susceptibility to peer pressure in the link between social anxiety and early substance use tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis.

Three research questions were posed. As stated above, results on the relation between social anxiety and substance use have been equivocal, especially in regard to young individuals.

We did not know which role that would be. Susceptibility to peer pressure may be either a mediator or a suppressor variable [ 37 ].

This depends on whether there is a direct association between social anxiety and substance use. If social anxiety, susceptibility to peer pressure, and substance use are all positively related, susceptibility to peer pressure may be a mediator in the social anxiety substance use relation explaining why socially anxious adolescents use one or more substances.

If social anxiety and substance use are not directly related or if social anxiety and susceptibility to peer pressure have opposite effects on substance use, susceptibility to peer pressure may turn out to be a suppressor variable [ 33738 ]. Through high susceptibility to peer pressure, socially anxious adolescents would be drawn to give in to peer pressure and start to drink, smoke, or use drugs, whereas their social anxiety, including their fear of behaving in an inappropriate manner, would cause them to refrain from such behavior.

In the current study, two samples were included and each sample comprised a group of younger adolescents and a group of older adolescents.

A group of younger adolescents was selected because it was expected that although most of them would not yet be users of tobacco, alcohol, and soft drugs in The Netherlands, the term soft drugs is used for the different types of cannabisfew of them would already use one or more substances regularly; see for age-related prevalence in The Netherlands the National Drug Monitor [ 39 ].

This group would therefore present information about the early beginnings of substance use. A group of older adolescents was included in the study of whom we expected that a substantial proportion would use substances on a regular basis [ 39 ].

The first research question regarding the relation between social anxiety and susceptibility to peer pressure was investigated in one sample and then replicated in the second sample.

Replication is important because previous studies on the relationship between social anxiety and susceptibility to peer pressure are lacking. For the second and third research questions involving social anxiety, susceptibility to peer pressure, and substance use, the second sample was used.

Furthermore, a two-year follow-up measurement of substance use was used in order to investigate whether the role of susceptibility to peer pressure in the initial phase of substance use extends to future substance use as well. Participants and Procedure All participants were high school students from mainly White, middle class families in The Netherlands.

Sample 1 consisted of 544 adolescents, students from five high schools. The sample comprised adolescents from two an examination of the pressure of social situations groups: The other two questionnaires are not relevant to the present study. Once they finished, participants were thanked for their participation and were given some sweets.

Sample 2 consisted of a selection of participants from the SAND study [ 4142 ]. The SAND study included four waves and assessed substance use at Waves 1 and 3 T1 and T2 in the current study with a period of two years in between. From the first wave T1two groups of participants attending high school were selected ; total high school sample who were in the same age range as the participants of Sample 1 and who participated both at T1 and T2.

The younger age group consisted of 49 adolescents 27 boys and the older age group of 68 adolescents 32 boys.

Adolescent Social Anxiety and Substance Use: The Role of Susceptibility to Peer Pressure

The participants came to the laboratory of the university individually and completed a number of questionnaires, among them were the SAS-A [ 40 ] and RPI [ 3031 ] on a PC. One week later, they came again to give an oral presentation [see [ 41 ]]. The health behavior questions used in the present study were part of a structured interview that took place after the oral presentation.

The participants were interviewed by a trained Ph. Participants in the SAND study received a monetary award. In both samples, adolescents actively assented to participate. The SAS-A consists of 18 items containing self-descriptive statements about social anxiety symptoms e. Items are scored on a Likert scale ranging from 1 not at all to 5 always. The internal consistency of the Dutch version is good [ 43 ].

Resistance to Peer Influence An examination of the pressure of social situations [ 31 ] The Dutch translation of this questionnaire [ 30 ] was used to measure susceptibility to peer pressure. This results in a four-point scale. The RPI is suitable for use with a wide age range, from late childhood through young adulthood. Items from the original Dutch version were reverse scored so that scores reflect susceptibility to peer pressure rather than resistance to peer influence.

A substance use score was composed of counting the number of substances cigarettes, alcohol, and cannabis used resulting in a score ranging from 0 to 3. Research question 3 about the role of susceptibility to peer pressure in the relation between social anxiety and substance use was examined with the PROCESS macro [ 45 ] retrieved from http: We used PROCESS to perform a number of linear regression analyses to test indirect and direct paths from the independent variable social anxiety to the dependent variable substance use.

We tested two indirect paths: We also present the direct path from social anxiety at T1 to substance use at T2, although we were not primarily interested in predicting the increase of substance use over time.

The focus of our interest was on understanding initial substance use that is persistent over time. Gender and age within the age groups were added as covariates in the analyses. We controlled for age because previous studies found age effects for susceptibility to peer pressure [ 3031 ] and for substance use [ 3946 ].

We controlled for gender because gender plays a role in the occurrence of social anxiety [ 640 ], susceptibility to peer pressure [ 3031 ], and substance use [ 47 ].

Social anxiety and susceptibility to peer pressure did not differ significantly between the age groups, whereas substance use was significantly higher in the older than younger age group, both at T1 and T2.