Social Network Analysis of Peers and Smoking in adolescence

Lead investigator
Professor Laurence Moore

Smoking is a major problem in the UK and is estimated to contribute to around 114,000 deaths each year. The problem is especially acute among teenagers, with 82% of smoking starting during adolescence. Deterring young people from taking up smoking is difficult; however, recent studies have identified the importance of influential friends and friendship groups in the development of anti-smoking norms.

During ASSIST (A Stop Smoking in Schools Trial, funded by the Medical Research Council), a large longitudinal dataset, including information on teenage smoking behaviour and their friendship networks, was collected.

This study was part of the European Collaborative Research Project.

Aims & objectives
To address questions on the uptake and maintenance of smoking behaviour in adolescence, arising from the work carried out investigating Peer Influence and Peer Selection (PIPS). Provide insight into the complex interplay between peer relationships and smoking behaviour, to improve understanding, theoretical development, and improved design and targeting of interventions to combat smoking in adolescence.
Study design

Secondary analysis of data collected from over 10,000 students from more than 57 schools.

  • Investigate whether smokers choose other smokers to be friends, or whether within friendship groups the uptake of smoking is through another social mechanism such as imitation or overt pressure.
  • Other analyses will consider whether personal network characteristics such as popularity affect smoking behaviour, and whether an individual’s position in their social network, for example, as a group member or isolate, affects their propensity to smoke.
  • Amongst other methods, the study will apply recent developments in the dynamic analysis of social networks and behaviour and will, amongst other methods, utilise a recently developed statistical modelling program, SIENA.
Further information & publications
Start date
September 2006
End date
February 2009