Gender, Friendship Networks, and Adolescent Mental Health

Lisa Leach, Ohio State University
Crystal M. Stephens, Ohio State University
Kristi Williams, Ohio State University

This study examines the influence of friendship networks on the mental health of male and female adolescents, with a particular focus on gender differences in these associations. We use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and incorporate a social network perspective. Consistent with theoretical expectations and previous empirical research, findings indicate that, although female adolescents are more prominently situated in their friendship networks (i.e., they are less isolated, more popular, and more central) than their male counterparts, the influence of these network characteristics on mental health does not differ by gender. Additionally, we find that network characteristics affect female and male levels of depression. Furthermore, we find that parental relationship quality moderates the influence of popularity on adolescent depression, but the direction of the association differs for boys and girls.

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Presented in Poster Session 3: Families, Parenting, Adolescents, and Children