Social Norms, Social Connections, and Sex Differences in Adolescent Mental and Behavioral Health
- 123 Downloads
This study examined whether sex-related health disparities that emerge during adolescence are linked to social norms and social connections within three primary social contexts: families, friendships, and schools. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (N = 18,921), we assessed links between social norms and social connections with parents, friends, and schools and depressive symptoms and substance use separately for males and females. In addition, we considered parents, friends, and schools as both combined and sex-specific contexts. Results suggested that links between social norms and adolescent health were stable across the sex of the recipient but varied by sex of the provider, whereas links between social connections and adolescent health varied across the sex of both provider and recipient. Social norms from mothers and female schoolmates (but not from fathers or male schoolmates) were associated with both male and female substance use. In contrast, connectedness with fathers served as a protective factor for male depressive symptoms, whereas connectedness with female friends was a risk factor for female depressive symptoms. These findings extend the literature investigating sex disparities in adolescent mental and behavioral health by locating significant influences from multiple social contexts, revealing sex-specific social norms and social connections within these contexts as playing a salient role, and identifying several areas for preventative efforts, specifically (a) maternal and female schoolmate social norms in reducing substance use, (b) paternal connectedness in reducing male depressive symptoms, and (c) connectedness within female friendships as a risk for female adolescents’ mental health.
KeywordsSocial norms Social connections Adolescence Substance use Depressive symptoms
This research was funded with generous support from the W. T. Grant Foundation (grant 10909). This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01-HD31921 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 (email@example.com).
CML: collaborated with the design of this study and wrote the manuscript. RLC: collaborated with the design and writing of the study. JS and ADL: analyzed the data and collaborated with the writing of the study. JRM: collaborated with the design and writing of the study.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures were in accordance with ethical standards. The Institutional Review Board at Boston College approved this study.
Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.
- Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980). Understanding attitudes and predicting social behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
- Allison, P. D. (2001). Missing data (Vol. 136). Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage publications.Google Scholar
- Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
- Bandura, A. (1999). A social cognitive theory of personality. In L. Pervin & O. John (Ed.), Handbook of personality. 2nd ed (pp. 154–196). New York, NY: Guilford Publications.Google Scholar
- Cain, G. (1975). Regression and selection models to improve nonexperimental comparisons. In C. A. Bennett & A. A. Lumsdaine (Eds.), Evaluation and experiment: Some critical issues in assessing social programs. New York, NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Cialdini, R. B., & Trost, M. R. (1998). Social influence: Social norms, conformity, and compliance. In D. Gilbert, S. Fiske & G. Lindzy (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology, Vol. 2 (pp. 151–192). Boston: McGraw-Hill, Inc.Google Scholar
- Eisenberg, M. E., Toumbourou, J. W., Catalano, R. F., & Hemphill, S. A. (2014). Social norms in the development of adolescent substance use: A longitudinal analysis of the International Youth Development Study. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43(9), 1486–1497. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-014-0111-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Fuemmeler, B., Lee, C. T., Ranby, K. W., Clark, T., McClernon, F. J., Yang, C., & Kollins, S. H. (2013). Individual-and community-level correlates of cigarette-smoking trajectories from age 13 to 32 in a U.S. population-based sample. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 132(1), 301–308. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.02.021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Furman, W., & Buhrmester, D. (1992). Age and sex differences in perceptions of networks of personal relationships. Child Development, 63, 103–115. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1992.tb03599.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Miech, R. A., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2017). Demographic subgroup trends among adolescents in the use of various licit and illicit drugs, 1975–2016 (Monitoring the Future Occasional Paper No. 88). Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.Google Scholar
- Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., Shanklin, S. L., Flint, K. H., Hawkins, J.,…Zaza, S. (2016). Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2015. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 65. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6506a1
- Kelly, A. B., O’Flaherty, M., Connor, J. P., Homel, R., Toumbourou, J. W., Patton, G. C., & Williams, J. (2011). The influence of parents, siblings and peers on pre‐and early‐teen smoking: A multilevel model. Drug and Alcohol Review, 30(4), 381–387. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1465-3362.2010.00231.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Lapinski, M. K., & Rimal, R. N. (2005). An explication of social norms. Communication Theory, 15(2), 127–147. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2885.2005.tb00329.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Nutbeam, D., Smith, C., Moore, L., & Bauman, A. (1993). Warning! Schools can damage your health: Alienation from school and its impact on health behaviour. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 29, S25–S30. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1754.1993.tb02256.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- O’Neil, J. M. (1981). Patterns of gender role conflict and strain: Sexism and fear of femininity in men’s lives. The Personnel and Guidance Journal, 60(4), 203–210. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2164-4918.1981.tb00282.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Osgood, D. W., & Anderson., A. L. (2004). Unstructured socializing and rates of delinquency. Criminology, 42, 519–49. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-9125.2004.tb00528.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Resnick, M. D., Bearman, P. S., Blum, R. W., Bauman, K. E., Harris, K. M., Jones, J., & Ireland, M. (1997). Protecting adolescents from harm: findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. JAMA, 278(10), 823–832. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.1997.03550100049038.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Resnick, M. D., Harris, L. J., & Blum, R. W. (1993). The impact of caring and connectedness on adolescent health and well-being. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 29, S3–S9. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1754.1993.tb02257.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Rimal, R. N., & Real, K. (2005). How behaviors are influenced by perceived norms: A test of the theory of normative social behavior. Communication Research, 32(3), 389–414. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2885.2003.tb00288.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Rose, A. J., Carlson, W., & Waller, E. M. (2007). Prospective associations of co-rumination with friendship and emotional adjustment: Considering the socioemotional trade-offs of co-rumination. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1019–1031. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16188.8.131.529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Sieving, R. E., Beurhing, T., Resnick, M. D., Bearinger, L. H., Shew, M., Ireland, M., & Blum, R. W. (2001). Development of adolescent self-report measures from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Journal of Adolescent Health, 28(1), 73–81. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1054-139X(00)00155-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Stadler, C., Feifel, J., Rohrmann, S., Vermeiren, R., & Poustka, F. (2010). Peer-victimization and mental health problems in adolescents: Are parental and school support protective? Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 41(4), 371–386. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-010-0174-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Stansfeld, S. (2006). Social support and social cohesion. In M. Marmot & R. G. Wilkinson (Eds.), The social determinants of health. 2nd ed (pp. 148–171). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Terry, D. J., & Hogg, M. A. (2001). Attitudes, behavior, and social context: The role of norms and group membership in social influence processes. In J. P. Forgas & K. D. Williams (Eds.), Social Influence: Direct and indirect processes (pp. 253–270). Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
- Wills, T. W. & Ainette, M. G. (2012). Social networks and social support. In A. Baum, T.A. Revenson, & J. Singer (Eds.), Handbook of health psychology – 2nd ed. New York, NY: Psychology Press.Google Scholar