Immediate Influence

Prosocial peers, role models

Parent construct: Peer influences

During early adolescence social networks, including friends and peers, become much more important to youth than ever before.1 In middle school, for the first time, youth begin to select friendships based on mutual interests, rather than based on convenience.2 Research on adolescent behavior tells us that adolescents who ‘hang out’ with positive, prosocial youth are more likely to do better in school, participate in positive extracurricular activities.3 Youth with prosocial friendships are less likely to engage in risky behavior.3 Risky behaviors include dropping out of school, substance use such as alcohol and smoking, early and risky sexual activity, violence and crime. Prosocial friendships also help youth to learn and practice important social skills that will help them to become successful adults.

Positive role models, or people that youth look up to, are also influential on youth behavior. Research with adolescents tells us that youth benefit from relationships with positive adults that they admire. These benefits include, enhanced feelings of self-worth, higher grades and, in some cases, less substance use.4,5

Related Interventions



  1. Larson, R., & Richards, M.H. (1991). Daily companionship in late childhood and early adolescence: Changing developmental contexts. Child Development, 62, 284-300.  

  2. Csikszenthmihalyi, M., & Larson, R. (1984). Being adolescent: Conflict and growth in the teenage years. New York: Basic Books.  

  3. Berndt, T. J., & Keefe, K. (1995). Friends' influence on adolescents' adjustment to school. Child Development, 66, 1312-1329.  

  4. Yancey A, Siegel J, McDaniel K. (2002). Ethnic identity, role models, risk & health behaviors in urban adolescents. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 156, 55-61.  

  5. Hurd, N.M., Zimmerman, M.A., & Reischl, T.M. (2010). Role model behavior and youth violence: A study of positive and negative effects. The Journal of Early Adolescence Online First, published on March 26, 2010 as doi: 10.1177/0272431610363160.