Social Context of Sexual Minority Adolescents and Relationship to Alcohol Use.
PURPOSE: Peer relationships are especially relevant during adolescence and may contribute to sexuality-based disparities in substance use. This study uses social network analysis to examine how social networks may serve as risk or protective factors for sexual minority youth in the context of alcohol use. METHODS: Social network analysis was applied to 11th to 12th graders in three diverse high schools in a rural area of the Southeast United States. The network consists of 1,179 students, 607 of whom were participants in the study and nominated friends. Regression models were used to examine how potential predictors of alcohol use may function differently for sexual minority and majority students. RESULTS: Approximately one fourth of students were classified as sexual minorities, inclusive of students who self-identified or reported any same-sex romantic attraction or sexual experience. These students did not use alcohol in greater amounts than students in the sexual majority. They received fewer incoming friendship nominations (p < .05) although a higher percentage of friendships were reciprocated (p < .05). They exhibited lower eigenvector centrality (p = .01), and their networks were less cohesive (p < .001). However, low centrality and low density did not predict greater alcohol consumption. Sexual minorities appeared to be influenced less strongly by peers' alcohol use, and friendships with sexual minorities further mitigated peer influence. CONCLUSION: Sexual minorities occupied less prominent positions within their social networks. However, these network differences did not place sexual minorities at increased risk of alcohol use.
Marshall, SA; Henry, TR; Spivey, LA; Rhodes, SD; Prinstein, MJ; Ip, EH
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