Research on adolescent alcohol use and risky sexual behaviors has highlighted the importance of social norms in developmental settings (e.g., family, peer, school), but this research often fails to examine the developmental settings simultaneously. We currently know little about the overall profiles of social norms across settings. Examining social norms-or disapproval and prevalence of risky behaviors-using a holistic approach is important, because it more accurately captures adolescents' experiences across developmental contexts, and such information could be used to better identify adolescents with unique challenges in particular social settings, allowing for more tailored intervention efforts targeting different profiles of social norms. Both theory and empirical evidence suggests that various patterns may exist for social norms around risky behaviors (i.e., alcohol use, risky sexual behaviors) in multiple settings (i.e., family, friends, school), and each profile may be associated with specific risky outcomes. The general goal of this project is to explore the various profiles of socialization across contexts, what predicts these profiles, and how and when these profiles are linked to youth risky behaviors. Here, we use nationally representative longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to investigate three research aims. First, we will identify subgroups of adolescents who experienced different profiles of social norms around alcohol use and risky sexual behaviors from their parents, friends, and schoolmates. Here we expect to identify adolescents who received congruent socialization messages as well as those who receive incongruent socialization messages across contexts. Such research will provide more accurate information about the complex socialization messages adolescents receive regarding risky behaviors. We will also investigate who is most likely to receive certain social-norm profiles by testing the lins between adolescents' characteristics (i.e., age, gender, race/ethnic, SES, nativity) and profiles. Second, we will investigate the extent to which profiles of social norms are linked to adolescents' subsequent alcohol use and risky sexual behaviors. By identifying unique challenges for adolescents experiencing various profiles of social norms, the proposed study will highlight the differential intervention needs (e.g., peer-based intervention, family-based intervention, intervention targeting multiple social settings) of certain groups of adolescents. Finally, we will investigate factors that might protect or mitigate the role of socialization acros contexts for youth risky behaviors. Essentially, we will seek to identify the processes that promote resilience in the face of great risk or that lead students to risky behaviors despite littl risk. Such research will provide information about the nuances of the relationships under study. This will suggest potential intervention mechanisms that might more effectively ensure the positive development of young people. In sum, by targeting multiple developmental settings using a person-centered approach, this research will provide a new perspective in understanding the social etiology of risky behaviors and highlight new directions for intervention and prevention efforts.

Public Health Relevance

This study examines how profiles of social norms across developmental settings can contribute to risky health behaviors (i.e., alcohol use and risky sexual behaviors), which have pernicious costs on individual life trajectories and the larger society. By examining social norms comprehensively and holistically, the study will identify adolescents with unique challenges in particular social settings and highlight more tailored intervention points to promote healthier wellbeing for American youth.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Social Sciences and Population Studies B Study Section (SSPB)
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Ruffin, Beverly
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Michigan State University
Other Health Professions
Schools of Arts and Sciences
East Lansing
United States
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