Social anxiety and alcohol use in early to middle adolescence: increasing susceptibility to peer influence
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The relationship between social anxiety and alcohol use in early and middle adolescence is not well understood, with evidence for protection, risk and no association. Yet by late adolescence social anxiety is a clear risk factor for increased alcohol use. Given the prominence of peer relationships in adolescence and the fact that adolescents predominantly use alcohol with peers, considering peer factors may shed light on the shifting role of social anxiety in the etiology of adolescent alcohol use. The present study examined the prospective association between social anxiety, perceived peer alcohol use and alcohol use in early to middle adolescence, controlling for delinquency and peer delinquency levels. Multi-level models suggested that for youth in general, the more they believe their peers drink, the more they are likely to drink in future. By middle adolescence, social anxiety becomes a risk factor for increased alcohol use for youth who perceive higher levels of peer alcohol use. Social anxiety has a slight protective effect for those who perceive lower levels of normative drinking. These results suggest a developmental shift in the association between peer alcohol influence and social anxiety, such that as age increases, adolescents with greater social anxiety symptoms become more susceptible to influence by alcohol norms than youth who are lower in social anxiety.