Scripts, Sects, and Sex among Adolescents: A Network Approach of Reference Groups

Brian Soller, Ohio State University
Dana L. Haynie, Ohio State University

We combine insights from reference group theory and network perspectives to understand how peer groups inform adolescent sexual behavior. We argue that adolescents’ sexual behavior more or less adheres to prevailing group sexualized romantic relationship “scripts,” which capture the extent to which members sanction sexual activity within ideal romantic relationships. However, we hypothesize that the association between scripts and behavior varies according to individual, group, and school characteristics, including positions within group networks, group cohesion, and social closure. To test our hypotheses, we identify adolescent peer groups with friendship network data from Add Health using Girvan and Newman’s (2002) edge betweenness algorithm. Results indicate that individuals’ racial similarity with group members, social proximity to group members, and occupying within-group brokerage roles strengthen the association between groups’ sexualized scripts and sexual intercourse. School level social closure—as measured by transitivity—and group network density also intensify the association between scripts and intercourse.

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Presented in Session 105: Adolescent Sexual Behavior and Risk Taking