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The Native American Adolescent: Social Network Structure and Perceptions of Alcohol Induced Social Problems | Journal of Youth and Adolescence

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Oct 10, 2013

Race/ethnicity and the structure of an adolescent’s social network are both important factors in the etiology of delinquent behavior. Yet, much of the minority-group delinquency literature overlooks the Native American youth population that traditionally exhibits high rates of alcohol use and abuse. Utilizing data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we compare the structural characteristics of school-based friendship networks of American Indian youth and other racial/ethnic groups. Our core sample for the descriptive analysis consists of 70,841 youth (Caucasian = 42,096; Black = 13,554; Asian = 4,758; Hispanic = 4,464; American Indian = 3,426; Other = 2,543; Female = 50 %). We find that Native American youth generally occupy similar social positions within school hierarchies compared to other minority groups. However, American Indian youth have fewer ties at the school level than Caucasian youth, including reports of fewer reciprocated friendships, a smaller number of in-school friends, and membership in less cohesive personal networks. We also focus on the detrimental social and physical consequences of alcohol use during adolescence and offer an extended consequences model (n = 5,841) that includes the interactive effects of race/ethnicity, age, and drinking influences on relationships with friends (Caucasian = 59 %; Black = 19 %; Asian = 7 %; Hispanic = 7 %; American Indian = 5 %; Other = 3 %; Female = 54 %). American Indian youth are no more likely than other youth to report personal drinking as being detrimental to social relationships with parents, peers, and romantic partners. We address ties between our findings and criminal justice policies and practices, as well as the implications for similar network analyses involving other racial/ethnic groups.

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The findings and conclusions in these newsletter materials are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Children's Safety Network.