Population-level Network Structure over Time and Marijuana Use among Homeless Youth

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Graduate School of Social Work


Homeless youth, Social networks, Marijuana abuse


Homeless youth report more marijuana use than stably housed youth; their marijuana use has been linked to the marijuana-using behaviors of their peers. This study was the first to examine the process of network influences in marijuana use with population-level (sociometric) social network data over time. Network data were collected from a population of homeless youth recruited from a drop-in center in Los Angeles every 6 months for 1 year (n = 237, 263, and 312). For each panel, a sociomatrix was generated based on youth nominating other youth in the sample. Degree centrality, betweenness, eigen vector centrality, and number of marijuana-using linkages represented network influence; logistic regression assessed associations with heavy marijuana use. Approximately 60% of the network membership changed between panels. Individuals with more network connections to other heavy marijuana users and youth with more connections to any other youth reported more heavy marijuana use. These results suggest that in transient, high-risk populations, social influence processes largely affect individual substance use patterns. Heavy marijuana use appears to be popular and important to the construction and reconstruction of these networks over time.

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