Friendship Network Structure and Quality and Adolescent Sexual Relationships

Beth Rustenbach, Pennsylvania State University

The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of friend’s risky sexual behavior and various friendship characteristics on respondent’s number of sexual partners. This study addresses six dimensions of friendship: number of same-sex friends, number of opposite sex friends, male and female friendship closeness and self-reported behavior of male and female friends. We analyzed cross-sectional data from the reports of 2,975 adolescents participating in Wave 1 of the Add Health saturated sample. The sample was divided into eight groups, males vs. females with four friendship types: 1) no friends, 2) female friends only, 3) male friends only, and 4) friends of both genders. We find that friendship structure and quality does predict risky sexual behavior, as measured by number of sexual partners, in five out of these eight groups. For all respondents, respondents who score high in the friendship variables examined report larger numbers of sexual partners than those who score low.

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Presented in Poster Session 3: Children and Youth, Adolescence, Parenting, Transition to Adulthood, Life Course