The Social Context of Adolescent Romantic Relationships: School and Neighborhood Influences on Adolescent Relationship Formation

Lloyd D. Grieger, University of Michigan
Yasamin Kusunoki, University of Michigan
David Harding, University of Michigan

In this paper, we use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to analyze the impact of U.S. adolescent’s greater social context on the formation of romantic and non-romantic sexual relationships. We hypothesize that the compositional characteristics of the two settings where most youth spend the bulk of their time (school and neighborhood) influence where adolescents meet their partners and how embedded those partners are within their social networks. We test our hypotheses using descriptive statistics and multilevel regression analysis. We find that adolescents from disadvantaged neighborhoods are more likely to have known their partners from the neighborhood than the school only, as are adolescents attending schools with greater ethnic heterogeneity. Higher neighborhood disadvantage is associated with forming relationships with more socially embedded partners and greater ethnic heterogeneity within the school is associated with forming relationships with less socially embedded partners.

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Presented in Session 1: Adolescent Romantic and Sexual Relationships