Research suggests the sense of belonging to primary groups functions as an important social resource for youth well-being, but it can be compromised among those dealing with addiction. The current study examined how adolescents' and emerging adults' identification with a primary peer group consisting of friends, mediates the relationship between addictive behaviors and psychological distress.
The study utilized demographically balanced survey data on 1200 Finnish participants aged 15 to 25 (mean age 21.29, 50% female). Measures were included for psychological distress, excessive drinking, excessive drug use, excessive gambling, excessive Internet use, and peer group identification.
All forms of addictive behaviors had a significant direct relationship with higher psychological distress. Excessive drug use, gambling and Internet use were associated with a weaker identification with a peer group, which predicted higher psychological distress. Contrary to the above findings, excessive drinking was linked to stronger peer group identification, mediating psychological distress downwards.
These findings support past research and provide a mediation model explanation onto how weaker social relations add to negative well-being consequences in different addictive behaviors, thus underlining the importance of expanding our understanding of social group outcomes among young individuals.
Data from a demographically balanced sample ( N = 1200) of Finnish youths aged 15 to 25.
Four different types of addictive behaviors were associated with higher psychological distress.
Psychological distress was significantly mediated by social identification to a primary peer group.
The mediating role of social identification varied among different addictions.