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Teen daters pal up to the bottle

A romantic partner's friends strongly sway alcohol use

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10:10am, September 30, 2011

Teenage romance, that feverish swamp of intensity and angst, comes with friendly baggage. Pals of a boyfriend or girlfriend strongly influence an adolescent’s alcohol use, for better or worse, a new study finds.

A romantic partner’s friends tend to have different habits and pursuits than a love-struck teen and his or her own social circle, say sociologists Derek Kreager of Pennsylvania State University in University Park and Dana Haynie of Ohio State University. Teens want to be like a boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s friends to strengthen the relationship, so this new set of buddies shapes alcohol use more than do preexisting friends or even a romantic partner, Kreager and Haynie report in the October American Sociological Review.

“School programs interested in reducing teenage alcohol misuse should extend their focus beyond friends to the new social groups that dating creates,” Kreager says.

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