Original Paper

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 335-344

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Same-Sex Sexual Attraction Does Not Spread in Adolescent Social Networks

  • Tiffany A. BrakefieldAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science Email author 
  • , Sara C. MednickAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of California, Riverside
  • , Helen W. WilsonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
  • , Jan-Emmanuel De NeveAffiliated withSchool of Public Policy, University College LondonCentre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics
  • , Nicholas A. ChristakisAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine and Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical SchoolDepartment of Sociology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University
  • , James H. FowlerAffiliated withDivision of Medical Genetics, University of California, San DiegoDepartment of Political Science, University of California


Peers have a powerful effect on adolescents’ beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Here, we examine the role of social networks in the spread of attitudes towards sexuality using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Although we found evidence that both sexual activity (OR = 1.79) and desire to have a romantic relationship (OR = 2.69) may spread from person to person, attraction to same sex partners did not spread (OR = 0.96). Analyses of comparable power to those that suggest positive and significant peer-to-peer influence in sexual behavior fail to demonstrate a significant relationship on sexual attraction between friends or siblings. These results suggest that peer influence has little or no effect on the tendency toward heterosexual or homosexual attraction in teens, and that sexual orientation is not transmitted via social networks.


Adolescents Sexual attraction Sexual orientation Social networks