The effect of adolescent popularity on alcohol use and depression in emerging adulthood

Date of Completion

January 2008


Health Sciences, Public Health|Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Clinical




The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between adolescents' sociometric and perceived popularity in high school and alcohol use and depression in high school and the first two years of emerging adulthood. Adolescents' sociometric popularity, perceived popularity, alcohol use, and depression were assessed from Grade 10 to Grade 12 using peer nominations and self-report instruments. The same constructs were measured in the first and second year after high school using a self-report mail-in survey. High school perceived popularity and alcohol use predicted drinking in the first two years of emerging adulthood. High school sociometric popularity did not predict drinking. High school depression predicted depression in emerging adulthood. These associations held for females and males alike. Additional cross-sectional analyses consisted of structural equations modeling for each of the five study years, using gender as the grouping variable. In these analyses, perceived popularity uniformly and positively predicted alcohol use in each year for both genders. Although the effects of sociometric popularity and depression on alcohol use varied by year and gender, sociometric popularity always negatively predicted alcohol consumption while depression positively predicted alcohol use. Additional longitudinal analyses consisted of growth curve modeling of drinking and depression across the three high school years. Alcohol consumption increased over time, girls drank less than boys in Grade 10, but perceived popular girls drank more than any other group across the three years combined. Depression decreased from Grade 10 to Grade 12. The benefits of sociometric popularity and drawbacks of perceived popularity for adolescents' and emerging adults' alcohol consumption, and the role of depression therein, were discussed. ^