Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Session #5 – Adolescent Social Networks

Problems at Home, Social Networks at School, and Social Integration

Rob Crosnoe & Julie Skalamera
University of Texas, Austin

Jacob Cheadle
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

High schools are more than educational institutions.  They are also their own social worlds, with unique systems of norms, values, and customs that shape the long-term trajectories of young people just as much as, if not more than, pedagogy and curriculum.  What goes on inside these social worlds of high schools, however, is not isolated from what is happening outside the school walls, as the experiences that young people have in and out of school converge to shape who they are, what they do, and how they connect with others.  This study explores that convergence by examining the degree to which parent-adolescent relations at home have implications for adolescent-peer relations at school over time. In doing so, it integrates insights from developmental neuroscience about how negative relationships with parents can shape brain development in critical ways that blunt the sensitivity of adolescents to their peer relations with insights from sociological network research about how young people select into relationships with each other while also socializing each other behaviorally, psychologically, and emotionally.  Specifically, we apply a range of analytical techniques (including stochastic actor based longitudinal social network modeling) to complete network data in the 16 saturated schools in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to examine the degree to which adolescents who perceive rejection and disapproval from parents are more likely to be in tangential positions in their peer networks at school and less likely to derive feelings of social integration from the peer relations that they do have at school.  In other words, young people who, because of what  is happening at home, need more social support at school are less able to navigate the peer worlds of their high schools in ways that provide that support.  This research bridges several disciplinary lines, illustrates core theoretical concepts (e.g., ecological mesosystems, life course social convoys), and shows how to capture the nesting of social relations while improving causal inference.

Please click each link to view the PDF: Presentation / Paper

"Unlinked Lives": Consequences of Friendship Network Instability for Adolescents’ Future Goals, Emotional Well-Being, and Risk Behaviors

Robert W. Faris
University of California—Davis

Diane Felmlee
Penn State University

The “stress and storm” of adolescence is exacerbated, in many cases, by instability in personal friendship networks.  We use a unique, seven-wave longitudinal social network dataset to differentiate adolescents on the basis of the stability of their immediate friendship networks:  approximately one-third of adolescents never nominated a friend more than once over a four year period, and 80% nominated friends no more than two times.  The few students with stable friendship networks had stronger life goals, higher cumulative GPAs, and more prosocial beliefs.  They were also less depressed, angry, and anxious, and less likely to smoke, be delinquent, or engage in dating violence. The origins of network stability are both exogenous and endogenous, and we preliminarily investigate the latter, finding that individual motivations for status or close friends shape networks, which subsequently reinforce motivations.

Paper and presentation coming soon.

Reconciling Two Theories of the Effects of Adolescent Activity Co-Participation on Race/Ethnic Friendship Segregation

David R. Schaefer & Sandra D. Simpkins
Arizona State University

Andrea Vest Ettekal
Tufts University

Extracurricular activities are common foci that draw adolescents together and promote friendship. Structural theories argue that such foci attract relatively homogenous subsets of the population, thereby promoting friendship homophily (e.g, racial friendship segregation). By contrast, qualitative evidence suggests activity foci can decrease homophily by offering opportunities for familiarization and engagement with peers who are dissimilar. In this paper, we examine these seemingly contradictory processes and explain how, in fact, they can occur in tandem. At the macro level, activity foci can promote homophily by homogenizing the pool of available friends, while at the micro level, foci can decrease the relative salience of attributes unrelated to the foci (e.g., activity-related interests trump race/ethnicity during friend selection). The hypothesized net effect of these two processes is a greater proportion of homophilous friendships within activity foci, but fewer relative to chance than observed outside the foci. Our analysis uses data on friendships and participation in 30 extracurricular activities from 108 schools in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Our test that activities serve as foci to bring racially homogenous sets of individuals together provides mixed results. Only around 60% of the activities are more homogenous than the broader school context in which they’re embedded, though we observe systematic differences by activity type. We follow this with an evaluation of the net effect of foci that compares several measures of homophily within activities to school-level homophily. We follow up these activity–level analyses with statistical network models (ERGM and SABM) that test the moderating effect of extracurricular activity co-participation on race homophily net of other network selection mechanisms. Overall results offer support for both perspectives. Activities weakly promote homogeneity; yet, when they do, they increase race homophily while reducing the relative salience of race for friend selection.

Paper and presentation coming soon.

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