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The Effects of Social Norms among Peer Groups on Risk Behavior: A Multilevel Approach to Differentiate Perceived and Collective Norms

Sun, May 27, 15:30 to 16:45, Hilton Prague, Floor: LL, Congress Hall III


Social norms have been found an important factor in individuals’ health behaviors. Past research has typically addressed which social norms individuals perceive in their social environments. The present paper explores normative social influences beyond such perceptions by applying a multilevel approach and differentiating between perceived norms at the individual level and collective norms at the group level. Data on norms and three road traffic risk behaviors (speeding, driving after drinking, and texting while driving) were obtained from a representative survey among young German car drivers (N = 311 anchor respondents) and their peer groups (overall N = 1244). Multilevel modeling (MLM) revealed that beyond individual normative perceptions of peers’ behavior and approval, actual collective norms (peers’ actual risk behavior and attitudes) affect individuals’ risk behaviors. Findings are discussed in the light of normative theory building and regarding practical implications.