Friendship Networks and Trajectories of Adolescent Tobacco Use

Published In: Addictive Behaviors, v. 35, no. 7, July 2010, p. 678-685

Posted on RAND.org on July 01, 2010

by Michael Pollard, Joan S. Tucker, Hank Green, David P. Kennedy, Myong-Hyun Go

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This article examines how friendship networks in adolescence are linked to tobacco use trajectories through a combination of analytic techniques that traditionally are located in separate literatures: social network analysis and developmental trajectory analysis. Using six years of longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we identify a set of six unique developmental trajectories of smoking (never smokers, steady lows, delayed increasers, early increasers, decreasers, and steady highs). Individuals' locations in their friendship networks were then linked to their trajectory group membership. Adolescents with a greater number of smoking friends were more likely to belong to the higher use trajectories. Beyond this exposure to smoking peers, individuals who at baseline were either members of a smoking group or liaisons to a smoking group were more likely than members of a nonsmoking group to belong to the higher use trajectories. Liaisons to a smoking group were particularly likely to belong to the delayed increaser trajectory group. Trajectory group membership for adolescents who belonged to a nonsmoking group did not significantly differ from those who were isolates or liaisons to a nonsmoking group. The study suggests features of an individual's social network have long-lasting associations with smoking behaviors.

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