Assessing the Relationship between Divergent Drinking and Perceptions of Friendship Quality between Students

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Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse




The use of psychoactive drugs appears to have a clear influence on both friendship formation and friendship quality. Differences in the frequency of substance use are particularly likely to influence each friend’s perceptions of their relationship with the other. However, the impact of divergent substance use patterns within a friendship dyad on overall friendship quality remains an underexplored area. Self-reported alcohol use and perceptions of friendship quality data were collected from 2,154 students (mean age = 19.3) in 1,077 friendship dyads. Analyses of variance were conducted to determine (a) if friends who have similar alcohol use patterns perceive greater friendship quality than friends with dissimilar use patterns, and (b) how dissimilarities in drinking behaviors between friends affect individuals’ perceptions of friendship quality. Individuals in dyads comprised of friends with similar drinking patterns were found to experience higher quality relationships than those in friendships with dissimilar drinking patterns. Partners who drank less frequently in dissimilar friendships did not perceive the friendship to be of significantly lower quality than did their more frequently drinking peers. Interestingly, high-rate heavy episodic drinkers reported a significantly higher overall friendship quality when their peer was a low-rate heavy episodic drinker as opposed to a non-heavy episodic drinker. Since high-rate drinkers perceived higher friendship quality to low-frequency drinkers than non-heavy episodic drinkers, they likely place more value in the opinions of low-rate drinkers. Abstinence-based alcohol intervention programs may utilize this information in efforts to decrease early dropout rates.