Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Director

Cathy Lau-Barraco

Committee Member

Abby Braitman

Committee Member

Mary Still


Peer relationships have been implicated as a salient factor on individual drinking outcomes. One specific subset of peers in one’s social network, identified as drinking buddies, have been associated with an elevated risk for harmful drinking in college students—beyond drinking peers in one’s network alone. Despite their salience on individual alcohol outcomes, little is known regarding what makes drinking buddies more or less influential. While moderators of peer influence have been examined, prior research on peer influence predominantly focuses on adolescent populations, presenting gaps in the literature regarding moderators of college student drinking buddies specifically. As such, the current study sought to investigate three domains of moderators: 1) characteristics of the individual, 2) characteristics of the peer, and 3) characteristics of their relationship on the association between presence of drinking buddies in one’s network and individual drinking outcomes. Guided by SCT, social-cognitive characteristics of the individual (e.g., drinking refusal self-efficacy and alcohol outcome expectancies) were examined as moderators. In addition, perceptions of one’s peer (e.g., descriptive norms, injunctive norms, and perceived popularity) were investigated as moderators. Finally, perceptions of the drinking buddy relationship quality (e.g., stability, intimacy, and support) were examined as moderators. Participants were 130 (86.2% female, Mage = 20.53) college student drinkers who completed an online self-report survey which assessed drinking behaviors, several drinking-related psychosocial constructs, and perceptions of drinking buddies and drinking buddy relationships. Results indicated that descriptive norms significantly moderated the association between the proportion of drinking buddies in one’s network and individual drinking quantity. No other significant moderations emerged. Findings should be interpreted in light of the fact that the proportion of drinking buddies did not significantly predict our drinking outcomes (drinking quantity, frequency, and consequences), and the fact that our analyses were not adequately powered. This study was among the first to examine factors that may exacerbate or buffer drinking buddy influence. Findings contribute to a limited body of literature assessing this particularly risky subset of peers in one’s network. Future research should investigate the feasibility of a descriptive norms intervention on influential drinking buddy relationships.


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