Adolescent friendship and the acquisition of sexual experience: Small group correlates of delinquent transitions

                         Powers, Edward Leigh, PhD

                         EDUCATION, SOCIOLOGY OF (0340)

                         This investigation analyzes the contribution of friends to changes in sexual experience during
                         adolescence. The data analyzed are extracted from the Adolescent Sexuality Study (ADSEX) conducted
                         by the Carolina Population Center. The sample consists of male and female white adolescents who
                         report never having had sexual intercourse at the time of first interview. The ADSEX study employs an
                         uncommon relational design that enables the use of friendship nominations to link junior high school
                         students directly to their friends so that survey response correlations can be analyzed. The two-wave
                         panel design of the study is exploited to examine changes in respondents' sexual behavior
                         vis-à-vis the sexual experience of their nominated friends. Friend effects are examined by
                         gender (same-sex vs. cross-sex) and by measures of relationship quality (best, mutual, and stable
                         friendships). In addition, the social network is expanded to include friends-of-friends so that the effects
                         of more distant associates can be examined. Findings demonstrate some evidence of both same- and
                         cross-sex friend influence over girls' sexual behavior change however best friends appear to have the
                         only consistent influence. Changes in boys' sexual behavior are not significantly related to the sexual
                         experience of their friends (best or otherwise). The need for further investigation of network effects is
                         supported with evidence that friends-of-friends experience is related to girls' sexual behavior changes.
                         Some evidence that certain types of second-order associates are related to boys' sexual behavior is also
                         presented. Implications for other mildly deviant activities are considered and further data collection needs
                         are discussed.


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