Peer Pressure can significantly affect an individual's behaviour, especially in childhood and adolescence . If the individual has positive attitudes towards addictive behaviour and experimentation, this makes them more vulnerable to dependency.
Many people with addiction problems blame the initiation and maintenance of their behaviour on peer pressure. Many conform in order to be liked or gain acceptance; when a peer group develop an addictive behaviour, such as smoking, it can become a part of an individual's 'in-group identity'.
The role of peers can also be explained through operant conditioning. The group reinforces participation and positive attitudes towards addictive habits, such as praise and status.
In terms of social learning, individuals may observe and imitate their peer's behaviour as a form of vicarious reinforcement.
Research has found that friend and peer use of drugs is a strong predictor of drug use among teenagers, therefore when peers groups are offering and modelling drugs, it increases the likelihood of the individual to also take drugs. This demonstrates the influences of social groups in determining individual vulnerability.