Befriending Risky Peers: Factors Driving Adolescents’ Selection of Friends with Similar Marijuana Use
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Adolescents often befriend peers who are similar to themselves on a range of demographic, behavioral, and social characteristics, including substance use. Similarities in lifetime history of marijuana use have even been found to predict adolescent friendships, and we examine whether this finding is explained by youth’s selection of friends who are similar on a range of more proximate, observable characteristics that are risk factors for marijuana use. Using two waves of individual and social network data from two high schools that participated in Add Health (N = 1,612; 52.7 % male), we apply longitudinal models for social networks to test whether or not several observable risky attributes (psychological, behavioral, and social) predict adolescent friendship choices, and if these preferences explain friend’s similarities on lifetime marijuana use. Findings show that similarities on several risk factors predict friendship choices, however controlling for this, the preference to befriend peers with a similar history of marijuana use largely persists. The results highlight the range of social selection processes that lead to similarities in marijuana use among friends and larger peer groups, and that also give rise to friendship groups whose members share similar risk factors for substance use. Friends with high “collective risk” are likely to be important targets for preventing the onset and social diffusion of substance use in adolescents.
KeywordsMarijuana use Adolescence Peers Social networks Social selection Friendship
Work on this article was supported by Grant R01DA030380 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (PI: Joan Tucker). This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01-HD31921 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with Cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
KD conceived of the study aims and analytic strategy, performed the statistical analyses, and coordinated and drafted the manuscript; HG participated in developing the study aims and analytic strategy, performed the statistical analyses, and contributed to drafting the manuscript; MP contributed to drafting the manuscript; DK contributed to drafting the manuscript; JT conceived of the study aims and participated in coordinating and drafting the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
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