Monthly Archives: September 2011

Adolescents fall prey to the drinking habits of significant others’ friends

Heather Rudow September 30, 2011

(Photo:Flickr/Bernt Rostad)

While each teen reacts differently to peer pressure, researchers found a surprising perpetuator in drinking among adolescents: It’s not their friends or their significant others’ drinking habits that rub off on them most, but the drinking habits of the friends of their significant other.

“Dating someone whose friends are big drinkers is more likely to cause an adolescent to engage in dangerous drinking behaviors than are the drinking habits of the adolescent’s own friends or romantic partner,” said Derek Kreager, lead author of the study. “The friends of a partner are likely to be very different from the adolescent and his or her friends and they might also be, at least a little, different from the partner. Adolescents are motivated to be more like their partner’s friends in an effort to strengthen their relationship with their partner.”

Researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a survey of U.S. adolescents enrolled in grades seven through 12 in the 1994-1995 school year. They tracked 898 students — or 449 couples — beginning in 1994, when the couples had not necessarily formed yet, and again in 1996 once they had begun dating. They found that whether or not a significant other’s friends drank was a strong indicator in whether or not the student drank.

Kreager said there were gender differences in terms of susceptibility to drinking.

“Consistent with prior literature, our findings indicate that girls are significantly less likely than their male partners to binge drink,” Kreager said. “However, we find that connections with drinking friends, romantic partners and friends of partners have similar positive associations with the drinking habits of boys and girls. Moreover, our research suggests that, if anything, males are more susceptible to a significant other’s influence than are girls.”

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Twitter finds people are happiest in the morning

Heather Rudow


The phrase “not a morning person” might seem to be applicable to most people, but a Cornell University study involving Twitter found that we are actually at our happiest early in the day and also on the weekends.

Over the course of two years, researchers analyzed tweets — 140 character messages from the social networking site — from approximately 510 English-speaking users from 84 countries and used a computer program able to identify whether it revealed a positive or negative mood.

They found that the average Twitter user is at his or her most positive early in the morning between 7 and 9 a.m., but a decline began mid-morning before lunch and between 3 and 6 p.m. After that point, moods seemed to uplift before bedtime, peaking around midnight. People also appeared to be happiest on the weekends, researchers said.

Negative moods, just like positive ones, also appeared to rise at night, peaking around 10 p.m.

Words like “happy,” “enthusiastic” and “brilliant” were regarded as positive mood indicators, whereas words like “sad,” “anxious” and “fear” were seen as negative mood indicators.

The study was published in the latest issue of Science.

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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NIMH director discusses the global cost of mental health

Heather Rudow


The struggling economy is affecting the welfare of countries around the world and especially in the way of healthcare. In his latest address, National Institute of Mental Health Director Thomas Insel discusses the World Economic Forum’s new report, which brings to light the global economic burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including mental health disorders. But, Insel says, the economic woes stemming from healthcare are not set in stone:

“What makes these numbers especially important is the realization that they can be reduced. The WHO recently provided a list of “best buys” — low-cost interventions such as tobacco control and reductions in alcohol and substance use that can dramatically alter the prevalence and cost of NCDs. The WEF advises governments and corporations not medical practitioners and patients. But the message should be of broad interest: the economic health of both developing and developed nations will depend on controlling the staggering growth in costs from NCDs.”

Read the rest of the address

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Teens react differently to peer pressure

Heather Rudow September 29, 2011


Parents place a lot of emphasis on making sure their teenagers aren’t hanging out with the “wrong crowd.” However, a Northwestern University study revealed that whether an adolescent succumbs to peer pressure actually depends on the situation.

“Opposite to what a lot of researchers think would happen, some kids in the groups, for example, neglected or didn’t even care about school, while others were dedicated students,” said study author Robert Vargas.

The study was mostly comprised of Hispanics living in a low-income neighborhood. It found that in mixed groups, some of the youths were insulated from the bad influences of others, such as those kids who had certain characteristics that their peers and friends respected.

Vargas pointed to neighborhood violence and territorial boundaries as the reason why some adolescents fall victim to negative peer pressure. “It wasn’t that these kids thought the bad behavior was ‘cool,’ but rather neighborhood violence constrained their friendship choices,” he said.

Vargas said these results show that policy changes need to be made in regards to peer pressure.

“The study demonstrates the need for policymakers and educators to move beyond public campaigns that convey to adolescents that undesirable acts are ‘not cool’ and consider factors that make adolescents dependent on friends or adults,” he said. “As adolescents were influenced by individuals they depended on most, policymakers and educators should consider trying to make young people more dependent on positive role models by, for example, requiring community service hours.”

Source: American Sociological Association

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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Nice guys don’t always finish first when acting as leaders

Heather Rudow


People might think highly of selfless, martyr-esque leaders, but when push comes to shove, a Northwestern University study found that a pushy, power-seeking leader is the one who garners the most respect.

“People with high prestige are often regarded as saints, possessing a self-sacrificial quality and strong moral standards,” said study author Robert Livingston. “However, while these individuals are willing to give their resources to the group, they are not perceived as tough leaders.”

Researchers from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management conducted three experiments to prove that “people with high prestige are perceived as desirable leaders in noncompetitive contexts but that they are viewed as submissive in comparison to individuals who strive to maximize their personal gains. In times of competition, individuals who are less altruistic are seen as dominant and more appealing as leaders.” Participants were were given the option of keeping an endowment—10 game chips worth a total of $20—for themselves or contribute it to a group pool. These contributions either benefitted the contributor’s fellow group members or simultaneously benefitted the contributor’s group members while also harming members of another group.

“Our findings show that people want respectable and admired group members to lead them at times of peace, but when ‘the going gets tough,’ they want a dominant, power-seeking individual to lead the group,” said lead author Nir Halevy. “This research begins to explore when ‘nice guys’ finish first and when they finish last, depending on the group context. ‘Nice guys’ don’t make it to the top when their group needs a dominant leader to lead them at a time of conflict.”

Source: Northwestern University

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at

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