Configuration of adolescents' social networks: Differences in characteristics and leisure activities



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Texas Tech University


Adolescence is recognized as a period of change in the form and focus of interpersonal relationships. Examining the social networks of adolescents has been a popular form of research. However, research has often focused on dyadic relationships or been restricted to specific environments, such as school.

This research goes beyond typical research on adolescent social networks that examines simply the size of the networks by an adolescent as important to them. Instead it examines the configuration of networks in which the adolescent is embedded. Adolescents listed the important people in their lives in the categories of parents, adult and young relatives, and nonrelated adults and friends. Four conceptually meaningful network configurations were identified through cluster analysis: a balanced network with average or above number of people in each of the five categories, an isolated network with below average number of people in each of the five categories, a parent dominated network in which parents is the only category with an average or above number of people named, and a parent alienated network in which all categories except parents have an average or above number of people named.

The second goal of this study was to identify the characteristics of the adolescents who maintained the various network configurations. Previous research has described the impact of personality characteristics, antisocial attitudes and behaviors and the quality of relationships with parents and with peers on adolescent social relationships. Using a series of MANOVAs or ANOVAs with network configuration as the independent variable parenting style, peer attachment, leisure activities, and adolescent characteristics, such as self-esteem, social competence, deviant behavior, and extroversion/introversion, were examined to determine how these characteristics differed between adolescents with different network configurations. In addition, gender, ethnicity, and community context (urban and rural) were examined.

Findings indicated that parenting style, the personal characteristics of social competence and use of drugs, and leisure activities are significantly different for adolescents with varying network configurations. Gender and community context also had significant impact on network configurations.



Adolescence, Social networks, Social interaction