Friendship Network Quality and Structure and Sexual Behavior in Adolescence

Elisa Rustenbach, Pennsylvania State University
Alan Booth, Pennsylvania State University

Moving from same-sex to opposite-sex relationships is a key aspect of development that occurs during adolescence (Dunphy, 1963). This period of life is where peer networks come to take the place of parents as the context within which behavior is learned and developed. The majority of papers that explore the influence of adolescent friendships do not examine a wide variety of network characteristics that have the potential for influencing them. This paper analyzes the influence of eight friendship characteristics (number of male and female friends, closeness to friends of each gender, sexual behavior of each friend by gender, centrality, and density) on two categories of respondents (respondents with same-sex friends only versus friends of both genders). Clustering analysis reveals five distinct friendship profiles that are linked to healthy and unhealthy ways in which sexual relationships are initiated and maintained.

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Presented in Session 108: Healthy Sexual Development in Adolescence