Peer Networks and Health Risk Behaviors Among Adolescents

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Adolescence is a time of great exploration and change. During this time, youth are transitioning both biologically and sexually into adults. Adolescents are also testing the boundaries of self-reliance and making choices about their personal relationships. Not surprisingly, aggressive urges are often driven by peers in pursuit of some form of identity (Masten 2004). Peers can have both positive and negative effects on the wellbeing on youth. Peer groups can provide emotional, physical, and social support to youth during a time of immense change (Parker and Asher 1987; Gest, Graham-Berman, and Hartup 2001). Peers can also model delinquent and risk-taking ... continued below

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vi, 112 pages

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Niño, Michael David May 2015.

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  • Niño, Michael David

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Adolescence is a time of great exploration and change. During this time, youth are transitioning both biologically and sexually into adults. Adolescents are also testing the boundaries of self-reliance and making choices about their personal relationships. Not surprisingly, aggressive urges are often driven by peers in pursuit of some form of identity (Masten 2004). Peers can have both positive and negative effects on the wellbeing on youth. Peer groups can provide emotional, physical, and social support to youth during a time of immense change (Parker and Asher 1987; Gest, Graham-Berman, and Hartup 2001). Peers can also model delinquent and risk-taking behaviors that have lasting health, social, and economic consequences throughout the life course. In an effort to understand the role of friendships in adolescent health, social scientists have increasingly focused on adolescent network structures within schools and the role various positions and peer group formations influence behaviors such as alcohol and cigarette use, violent and serious delinquency, and sexual risk-taking. While informative, peer networks studies have yet to adequately address how peer network structures based on immigrant generation and types of marginalized social positions influence health risk behavior engagement among adolescents. In three studies, I address the dearth of research in these areas, using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). The first study investigates the influence of generational peers on alcohol misuse among immigrant youth. Testing hypotheses derived from sociological theories of generations regarding race/ethnicity, gender, and immigrant generation, findings from this study demonstrate generational ties are inversely related to alcohol misuse for immigrants and these effects depend partly on race/ethnicity and gender. The second study investigates the effects of specific network forms of social isolation on heavy episodic drinking and cigarette use among adolescents. The central finding from this study is that different network-based forms of social isolation had varying effects on alcohol and cigarette use when compared to sociable youth. The final study examines the relationship between types of social isolation and violent delinquency when compared to sociable youth. Deriving hypotheses from general strain theory, I test whether the isolation-violence relationship varies across isolation types when compared to sociable youth. I also test whether other negative experiences and circumstances (strains) tied to adolescence moderate the relationship between isolation types and violent delinquency. Finally, studies indicate a consistent gender gap in criminality. Therefore, I test whether the isolation-violence relationship differs by gender. Findings demonstrate that socially disinterested youth show a greater capacity for violent behavior, but other types of marginalized youth showed no difference in violence when compared to sociable youth. Results also suggest that some types of strain moderate the isolation-violence relationship and that these patterns are gendered.

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vi, 112 pages

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  • May 2015

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  • Feb. 9, 2016, 4:37 p.m.

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  • March 28, 2017, 6:27 a.m.

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Niño, Michael David. Peer Networks and Health Risk Behaviors Among Adolescents, dissertation, May 2015; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc801957/: accessed May 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .