Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Ginger Lockhart


Adolescence marks a vulnerable developmental period for health behavior, and research demonstrates that social context and interpersonal relationships impact the health behavior choices of adolescents. In addition, theories of adolescent development suggest a bidirectional relationship between environmental factors, including social relationships, and health. Friendships are one of the most salient relationships during adolescence, and new methods from the field of social network analysis allow researchers to explicitly examine the mechanisms through which friends influence health behavior, and simultaneously, how health and health behavior impacts the formation of friendships. Importantly, social network methods (e.g., stochastic actor-based models, exponential random graph models) overcome statistical limitations of alternative methodology. For example, methods from social network analysis incorporate interdependencies between individuals in a social network (e.g., adolescents within a school) into the statistical modeling framework, and are capable of simultaneously estimating social and behavioral outcomes.

Through a sequence of three distinct studies, this project applies rigorous methods from social network analysis to investigate: (1) the differential impact of adolescent friendships on health-risk (e.g., alcohol use) and health-protective (e.g., physical activity) behaviors; (2) the role of perceived social acceptability and peer influence in shaping adolescent cigarette use; and (3) the social consequences, including social withdrawal and social marginalization, of adolescents with chronic illness.



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