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Challenges to the peer influence paradigm: results for 12–13 year olds from six European countries from the European Smoking Prevention Framework Approach study
  1. H de Vries1,
  2. M Candel2,
  3. R Engels3,
  4. L Mercken1
  1. 1Department of Health Education and Health Promotion, University of Maastricht, The Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Methodology and Statistics, University of Maastricht
  3. 3Department of Pedagogics, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor Hein de Vries
 Department of Health Education and Health Promotion, University of Maastricht, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands; hein.devries{at}


Objective: To examine whether smoking onset in young adolescents is predicted by peer or parental smoking.

Design: Longitudinal design with one pretest and one follow-up at 12 months.

Setting: Schools in Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal.

Participants: 7102 randomly selected adolescents from six countries. Mean age was 12.78 years.

Main outcome measures: Smoking behaviour of adolescents, peers and parents.

Results: No support was found for peer smoking as an important predictor of smoking onset in most countries. Support was found for the selection paradigm, implying that adolescents choose friends with similar smoking behaviour. Support for the impact of parents on adolescent behaviour and the choice of friends was also found.

Conclusions: Smoking uptake in this age cohort may be more strongly influenced by personal and parental influences than initially believed. Hence, social inoculation programmes teaching youngsters to resist the pressures to smoke may be less appropriate if youngsters have a positive attitude towards smoking, associate smoking with various advantages and look for peers with similar values. For this group attitudes towards smoking may thus guide future friend selection.

  • CFI, comparative fit index
  • ESFA, European Smoking Prevention Framework Approach
  • RMSEA, root mean square of approximation
  • SEM, structural equation modelling
  • TLI, Tucker-Lewis index
  • adolescents
  • peer pressure
  • peer selection
  • parents

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  • Competing interests: none declared