Does Sexual Onset Spread through Peer Networks? Diffusion of Sexual Onset among Adolescents

Sam Hyun Yoo, Arizona State University
David Schaefer, Arizona State University

This study investigates diffusion of sexual onset through peer network among adolescents while controlling for friend selection. We test peer influence on the hazard of sexual onset controlling for friendship dynamics by using an advanced method, which integrates a proportional hazard model into the existing stochastic actor-based modeling. We use data from two saturated schools in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, 1994-1996. Results suggest that peer influence increases the hazard of initiating sexual intercourse for adolescents. Both absolute and relative measures of exposure to friends who have initiated sexual intercourse, raise adolescents’ risk of sexual debut, net of friend selection and other covariates. Peer influence on sexual onset is much stronger in our study than prior research, in which friendship dynamics were not properly considered.

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Presented in Session 144: Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health: Causes and Consequences