Study investigates how the use of alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana among homeless youth may be influenced by characteristics of their social networks

This study found that youth with more substance users in their networks reported greater alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana consumption regardless of whether these network members provided tangible or emotional support. The homeless setting was more significant in consumption than meeting network members in other contexts. Numbers of adults and school attendees in networks reduced consumption. The study demonstrates the relevance of network-based interventions in prevention work.

Personal social network data were collected randomly from 136 homeless adolescents age 13-24 from 41 sites in Los Angeles, USA. Respondents reported on composition of their social networks with respect to home-based peers and parents (accessed via social networking technology) and homeless peers and agency staff (accessed face-to-face.) Data was also collected regarding respondent and network member history of substance abuse.

These findings from Eric Rice, Norweeta G. Milburn and William Monro are published in Prevention Science. The authors suggest that social networking technologies can be used to facilitate the sorts of positive social ties required by effective peer-based prevention programmes.

Link: Social Networking Technology, Social Network Composition, and Reductions in Substance Use Among Homeless Adolescents - Abstract and full report, via Springer Link.