Peers have credibility

A trained peer is seen to be more credible than a non-peer and is considered as a more immediate source of help.1,2

Peers are also seen to be a credible source of information as they are seen to have similarities with the target group. Within peer-based programs, peer supporters are often chosen for the high level of esteem that their peers hold them in and will often be nominated by their peers.3

There are several types of credibility highlighted in the research:

  • Person-based credibility which is related to a peer’s age or ethnicity;
  • Experience-based credibility which is related to the degree to which the peer may have shared experiences (such as drug use, sexual risk-taking, self harm, bullying, mental health problems) with the young people that they are providing information to; and
  • Message-based credibility which is the way that the peer provides the health information and messages to others, including accuracy of content.1,4-7

Young people interact less with their parents and other adults and move more toward their peer group during adolescence and teens, meaning that information provided by their peers will seem far more relevant and potentially more credible than that provided by adults including parents.8,9

Young people who perform the role of a trained peer, are thought to be more familiar with the issues faced by other young people and are therefore seen to be particularly credible and can assist to develop strategies to counter negative social norms and peer pressure.3,9


  1. Green, J 2001, ‘Peer education’, International Union Health Promotion and Education: Promotion and Education, vol. 8, no.2, pp. 65-68.
  2. Topping, KJ 2005, ‘Trends in Peer Learning’, Educational Psychology, vol. 25, no. 6, pp. 631-645.
  3. Elliott, KJ & Lambourn, AJ 1999, ‘Sex, drugs and alcohol: two peer-led approaches in Tamaki Makauau/Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand’, Journal of Adolescence, vol. 22, pp. 503-513.
  4. Goren, N & Wright, K 2006, Peer Education as a drug prevention strategy, in Prevention Research Quarterly: current evidence evaluated, DrugInfo Clearinghouse: West Melbourne, Victoria.
  5. McDonald, J, Ashenden, R, Grove, J, Bodein, H, Cormack, S, Allsop, S 2000. Youth for Youth: A Project to Develop Skills and Resources for Peer Education: Final Report, National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), Adelaide.
  6. Shiner & Newburn, 1996
  7. Turner, G & Shepherd, J 1999, ‘A method in search of a theory: peer education and health promotion’, Health Education Research, vol. 14, no. 2, p. 235.
  8. Fors, SW & Jarvis S, 1995, ‘Evaluation of a peer-led drug abuse risk reduction project for runaway/homeless youths’, Journal of Drug Education, vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 321-333.
  9. Visser, MJ 2004, Implementing Peer Support in Schools: Using a Theoretical Framework in Action Research. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 14(6): 436-454.