A Network Analysis of Factors Leading Adolescents
to Befriend Substance-Using Peers
David R. Schaefer
Published online: 28 December 2016
Ó Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016
Our interest is in the systematic network selection processes that lead adoles-
cents into friendships with substance-using peers. Theory suggests that adolescents with
certain risk factors (i.e., weak attachments to conventional society and low self-control) are
more likely to select substance-using friends. Our goal is to evaluate whether adolescents
with particular risk factors have a greater risk for befriending substance-using peers, while
controlling for common network selection processes that can produce the same friendship
pattern. These selection processes are important as they help to set the stage for later peer
inﬂuence on substance use.
We use a Stochastic Actor-Oriented Model to examine network change among
1373 adolescents from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. We test
whether low self-control and indicators of weak attachments (to family, school, and reli-
gion) predict selecting friends engaged in alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use.
We ﬁnd widespread evidence of the hypothesized friendship pattern within
adolescent friendship networks. In most cases this pattern is a product of selection based on
the risk factor and substance use, and not attributable to other selection mechanisms.
We highlight the need to broaden the study of delinquency to account for
how adolescents come to acquire friends who may be negative sources of peer inﬂuence.
We offer theoretical and methodological insight to this question, ultimately ﬁnding that
only in limited cases are adolescents with particular risk factors more likely to select
friends involved in substance use. We discuss implications for theory and future investi-
gations of peer inﬂuence.
Keywords Adolescents Á Substance use Á Self-control Á Weak attachments Á Social
network Á Stochastic Actor-Oriented Model
& David R. Schaefer
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, PO Box 872402, Tempe,
AZ 85287, USA
J Quant Criminol (2018) 34:275–312