Dynamic Associations of Network Isolation and Smoking Behavior

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  1. Molly Copeland

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Description: Prevailing social network frameworks examine the association between peer ties and behaviors like smoking, but the role of social isolates is poorly understood. Some theories predict isolated adolescents are protected from peer influence that increases smoking, while others suggest isolates are more likely to initiate smoking because they lack social control provided by peer friendships. Building on a growing literature that seeks to explain these contradictions by moving beyond a homogeneous understanding of isolation, we identify the relationships between smoking and three distinct dimensions of isolation: avoided (adolescents who do not receive ties), withdrawn (adolescents who do not send ties), and externally oriented (adolescents who claim close out-of-grade friends). We examine the coevolutionary effects of these dimensions and cigarette smoking using an autoregressive latent trajectory model (ALT) with PROSPER Peers, a unique, longitudinal networks dataset. These data include students (47% male and 86% White) from rural Iowa and Pennsylvania, ranging successively from grades 6-12 in eight waves of data. As a robustness check, we use a stochastic actor-oriented model (SAOM) to compare to results from the ALT. We find avoided isolation and external orientation are associated with decreased successive smoking in high school, while smoking increases subsequent isolation along all three dimensions, with particularly strong effects on withdrawn isolation.

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Prevailing social network frameworks examine the association between peer ties and behaviors like smoking, but the role of social isolates is poorly understood. Some theories predict isolated adolescents are protected from peer influence that increases smoking, while others suggest isolates are more likely to initiate smoking because they lack social control provided by peer friendships. Building ...

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