*The following is excerpted from an online article from Reuters.
Teens’ perceptions of how sexually active their peers are may have the greatest impact on their own sexual behavior, suggests a new analysis of previous studies.
By contrast, peer pressure had the smallest effect on teens’ decisions to have sex, the authors found.
Researchers wanted to know how teens’ perceptions of their peers’ sexual behaviors and attitudes influenced their own decisions about having sex and about having risky sex, such as without protection against STDS or pregnancy. So they combined the results of 58 studies that were conducted between 1980 and 2012 in 15 different countries around the globe.
The researchers looked at three different kinds of norms. One was teens’ perceptions of what their peers were doing, another was what they thought their peers would approve of and the third was how much direct peer pressure they felt.
The study team found that perceptions of their peers’ activity had the greatest influence on teens, followed by their perceptions of what their peers would think. Peer pressure appeared to have the least influence.
“All three peer norms matter, but what adolescents think that their peers do (role modeling) is most important,” said Daphne van de Bongardt, a researcher at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, who led the study. “Adolescents who think that their peers engage in sex are more likely to engage in sex themselves.”
The research was published in the journal, Personality and Social Psychology Review.