How peers matter: a research synthesis of peer influences on adolescent pregnancy.
This chapter presents a research synthesis of studies conducted for the past 15 years that have examined peer influences on sexual activity and other behaviors that increase the risk of adolescent pregnancy in the US. First, an overview on the structure of adolescent peer relationships in the US is presented; these include 1) levels of peer interaction; 2) types of peer influences; and 3) implications for studying peer influence. Second, sources of similarity between adolescents and friends are discussed. The influence of peers on adolescent behavior can be attributed primarily to the inclination of adolescents to select like-minded people as friends. Third, an empirical examination defines the various mechanisms on how peers influence behaviors related to adolescent pregnancy. Peer influence was measured through the following parameters: effects of peer pressure, and peer modeling, setting norms, and structuring opportunities. Fourth, the impact of the status of the adolescent within the peer group on behavior related to sexual activity and pregnancy, as well as the relationship between family and peer influences are discussed. Lastly, the major conclusions and implications for intervention efforts are presented.