Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Antonia Abbey


Risky, reckless, and potentially harmful behaviors reach their peak during the adolescent and emerging adulthood years. Past research demonstrates that a variety of social influences, including descriptive and injunctive norms, overt pressure, and modeling affect adolescents' and college students' heavy drinking, consensual sexual experiences, and sexual assaults. The construct of peer influence has been measured in many different ways, and little research has simultaneously considered peer influence on even two of the three outcomes in the current study. Further, much of the research with emerging adults is conducted with college students. To address these gaps in the literature, this study had two interrelated goals. First, to demonstrate how men's male friends influence their past-year frequency of heavy drinking, number of consensual sexual partners, and number of sexual assaults perpetrated. Second, to develop three new measures: Male Friends' Pressure to Drink Heavily, Have Numerous Sexual Partners, and Have Sex by Any Means; Comfort with Sexist and Nonsexist Statements; and a qualitative assessment of how men and their friends discuss women. Participants were 423 single, heterosexual men aged 18 to 35 from the Detroit metropolitan area who completed two audio-computer-assisted self-interviews, one year apart. The three new measures demonstrated excellent internal reliability coefficients, although the factor analyses did not fully support the hypothesized factor structure. Responses to the single item assessing how men and their friends talk about women were coded by three research assistants, who counted the number of objectifying and egalitarian phrases with a high level of interrater reliability. As hypothesized, male friends' pressures were significantly related to participants' past-year frequency of heavy drinking, number of consensual sexual partners, and number of sexual assaults perpetrated. There were also several interactions with individual difference measures, satisfaction with male friends, and age. Sexual assault perpetration was also associated with the types of discussions men had with their male friends about women and comfort in these situations. This study demonstrates that friends influence young men's drinking and sexual behaviors. Suggestions are made for involving peer groups in sexual assault prevention programs.