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Describe the peer cluster theory and explain how this theory is different from peer pressure.

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The peer cluster theory suggests that peer drug use is directly linked to and can lead to adolescent drug use. The various (mainly inner) social circles, or peer clusters, of the adolescent (family, close friends, partners, religious affiliates) can heavily influence substance use. According to E. R. Oetting and F. Beauvais, the peer cluster theory is

a psychosocial model that suggests that the socialization factors to which adolescents are exposed interact to produce peer clusters that either encourage or sanction against drug use.

Peer cluster theory is different than peer pressure as it doesn't actually involve pressure. To an outsider perspective, it may look like a direct or indirect response to peer pressure when an individual acts or behaves in a similar way to the person or people they're often socializing with. However, when observed from the perspective of the peer cluster, the individual is not actually pressured to act or behave in a certain way, they simply choose to do so, be it for sense of belonging or agreement that that behavior is the right behavior or the right behavior for them.

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