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Holism, Contextual Variability, and the Study of Friendships in Adolescent Development Author(s): Robert Crosnoe and Belinda Needham

Reviewed work(s): Source: Child Development, Vol. 75, No. 1 (Jan. - Feb., 2004), pp. 264-279 Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development Stable URL: . Accessed: 13/01/2013 16:07
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Child Development, January/February 2004, Volume 75, Number 1, Pages 264-279

Holism, Contextual Variability,and the Study of Friendships in Adolescent Development

RobertCrosnoeand Belinda Needham
This study treated a key relationship in the developmental ecology of adolescence, friendships, as multidimensional and context specific. First, it examined 4 characteristics of friends (academic achievement, alcohol use, emotional distress, and extracurricular participation) as independent factors and as components in holistic friendship group profiles. Longitudinal analyses of 9,224 adolescents (ages 12-20) revealed that multiple characteristics of friends predicted adolescent behavioral problems, as did membership in the best adjusted group profile. Second, the study examined whether the associations between friendship factors and adolescent behavior varied as a function of the larger peer network and school context, finding that network centrality, school academic press, and intergenerational bonding in schools conditioned the role of friends' characteristics and group profiles in positive and negative ways.

Human development occurs within a web of interpersonal relations. Friendships are an important component of this ecology throughout life, but they play an especially vital role during adolescence, a stage characterized by increased peer orientation and gradual autonomy from family control (Antonucci & Akiyama, 1995; Hartup & Stevens, 1997). Reflecting this, peer relations have featured more prominently in developmental research on adolescence than on other life stages. The present study continued this rich tradition by combining an ecological perspective (Bronfenbrenner & Morris,

RobertCrosnoe and Belinda Needham, Departmentof Sociology and Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin. The authors acknowledge the support of grants from the NationalInstituteof Child Health and Human Development(R01 HD40428-02, PI: Chandra Muller) and the National Science Co-PI: Chandra Muller and Pedro Foundation (REC-0126167, Reyes) to the PopulationResearchCenter,Universityof Texasat Austin. Opinions reflectthose of the authorsand not necessarily those of the grantingagencies.This researchuses data from Add Health, a programprojectdesigned by J. RichardUdry, Peter S. Bearman,and KathleenMullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01-HD31921from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies.Specialacknowledgmentis due RonaldR. Rindfussand BarbaraEntwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interestedin obtainingdata files from Add Health should contact Add Health, CarolinaPopulationCenter,123 W. FranklinStreet, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524( concerningthis articleshould be addressedto Correspondence Robert Crosnoe, Department of Sociology and Population ResearchCenter,Universityof Texasat Austin, 1 UniversityStation A1700, Austin, TX 78712-1088.Electronicmail may be sent to

1998) with exciting themes in research on interpersonal relations. First, the microsystem level of ecology encompasses the direct, developmental effects of interpersonal contexts. Our microsystem-level treatment of friendships examined the association between friendship group characteristics and adolescent behavioral problems. On the basis of developmental science demonstrating the value of characterizing friendship groups by multiple, interrelated factors (Xie, Cairns, & Cairns, 2001), we examined four characteristics of friends (academic achievement, alcohol use, mental health, and extracurricular participation) as independent factors and as components of holistically defined friendship group profiles. Second, the mesosystem-level of ecology concerns the developmental significance of interactions among contexts. On the basis of recent sociological research demonstrating how larger contexts moderate friendship dynamics (Crosnoe, Cavanagh, & Elder, 2003; Haynie, 2001), our mesosystem-level treatment of friendships examined whether the association between the friendship group and adolescent behavior is conditioned by the peer network and school. To pursue these two goals, this study drew on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which is nationally representative, allows the measurement of friendship characteristics by the reports of friends themselves, provides constructed measures of peer networks, and includes school-level information. Coupling our ecological approach with this data source enabled us to deepen an already rich literature and point toward new
? 2004 by the Societyfor Researchin Child Development,Inc. All rights reserved.0009-3920/2004/7501-0018

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Adolescent Friendship avenues of inquiry. On a more general level, such research has implications for the study of interpersonal relations throughout life. FriendshipsDuring Adolescence Across the life course, friendships direct development through support, modeling, and assistance, but their significance is heightened in adolescence (Antonucci & Akiyama, 1995; Hartup & Stevens, 1997). In this stage, friendships enable adolescents to meet a key developmental task-establishing their own lives independent from their families-by helping them develop identities, test conventional boundaries, and gain autonomy from parents (Brown, Clasen, & Eicher, 1986; Giordano Cernkovich, & Pugh, 1986). Consequently, friendship has been central to research on adolescence. A good deal of research in this area has focused on the associations between the characteristics of friends and the functioning of adolescents (Crosnoe, 2000). A large portion of these observed associations arises because of selection, the tendency of young people to be attracted to others who are similar to them or have characteristics that they desire (Kandel, 1996). Yet, these associations persist even after taking selection into account, indicating that friends socialize each other through modeling, reinforcement, and coercion (Aseltine, 1995; Matsueda & Anderson, 1998). Thus, the friendship group is an important microsystem-level context in the developmental ecology. This study examined these microsystem-level effects as multidimensional by focusing on four characteristics of friends. Friends' alcohol use and friends' academic achievement both predict adolescent functioning. Adolescents do better when their friends avoid drinking and make good grades (Aseltine, 1995; Mounts & Steinberg, 1995). Friends' emotional distress and friends' extracurricular participation have less often been studied directly. Of course, the distress and extracurricular participation of adolescents in general have been studied extensively; therefore, we drew on these related literatures. Adolescent emotional distress is a welldocumented correlate of poor individual adjustment, including problems in interpersonal relations (Hussong, Hicks, Levy, & Curran, 2001), which suggests that distressed friends will be less active in adolescents' lives and less likely to serve as prosocial models of behavior. Past research has also demonstrated that adolescents who participate in extracurricular activities are more integrated into school, have closer relations with school personnel,


and are more likely to avoid problem behavior (with the exception of athletes and alcohol) and that they tend to be friends with those who share their same activity profiles (Eccles & Barber, 1999; Eder & Parker, 1987; Holland & Andre, 1987). These patterns suggest that friends who participate in such activities may play a more positive developmental role. This study pursued a multidimensional treatment of friendship in two ways. In the variable-centered approach (Magnusson & Cairns, 1996), we examined whether each of these characteristics is associated with adolescent behavioral problems. Thus, rather than investigate how a specific behavior of friends is associated with adolescents' engagement in that same behavior (e.g., friends' achievement - adolescent achievement), which has been demonstrated sufficiently in past research, we examined whether specific characteristics of friends are associated with a more general dimension of adolescent behavior. By examining these diverse characteristics in tandem, moreover, we were able to compare and contrast their general developmental significance. In the person-oriented approach (Magnusson & Cairns, 1996), we examined how these four characteristics come together to form general friendship group climates that predict adolescent behavior. Thus, we looked at the configuration of characteristics that identify a friendship group rather than viewing these characteristics as independent factors. For example, the variable-oriented approach may reveal that friends' alcohol use is directly related to adolescent behavioral problems but that friends' achievement is inversely related to such problems. The person-oriented approach, on the other hand, may reveal that adolescents do fine, or at least not badly, in groups that are high in both drinking and achievement, as many high school athletic groups are (Crosnoe, 2002a). In other words, the first multidimensional approach tells us which friendship characteristics matter, controlling for other characteristics, and the second tells us how these characteristics come together to form a unified whole (Xie et al., 2001). Friendshipsin Context Social context has become increasingly prominent in research on adolescent friendships. Typically, such research has examined how various contexts predict friendship dynamics (Crosnoe, 2000; Kubitschek & Hallinan, 1998; Moody, 2001). This study took an alternative approach by examining how contexts condition the significance of adolescent friendships. In ecological terms, such conditioning, or modera-

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Crosnoe and Needham the associations between the characteristics of friends and adolescents. Recent research has demonstrated that this process does occur for academic achievement, substance use, and delinquency. Such research suggests that the general climate of the school is the most important factor in this process (Cleveland & Weibe, 2003; Crosnoe, 2002b; Crosnoe et al., 2003). Building on this line of research, this study examined how two climate-related characteristics of schools moderate the associations between multiple dimensions of adolescent friendship groups (independently and holistically) and adolescent behavioral problems. First, academic press refers to the academic rigor of schools (Shouse, 1996). A strong emphasis on conventional achievement may reinforce more positive influences from friends but, by increasing the potential costs of problem behavior, counterbalance more negative influences from friends (Crosnoe et al., 2003; Hirschi, 1998). Second, intergenerational bonding in school refers to the general level of closeness between the student body and the teaching staff. Our interest in this school factor arose from past research that had demonstrated that young people benefit from positive parenting-not just the parenting they receive but also the general level of parenting that characterizes their peer group and their school (Coleman, 1988; Fletcher, Darling, Steinberg, & Dornbusch, 1995). Given the evidence that student-teacher bonding also promotes adolescent adjustment (Sanders & Jordan, 2000), we argue that a collective treatment of this factor may also serve as an important aspect of school climate, one that may condition friendship effects in the same way as academic press. Method Data and Sample This study drew on Add Health, a nationally representative, ongoing study of adolescents in Grades 7 through 12 in 1994 (Bearman, Jones, & Udry, 1997). Sample schools were selected by region, urbanicity, school type, racial composition, and size. Each school was then matched to a feeder school on the basis of the number of its students coming from the feeder school. From September 1994 through April 1995, available students in these schools (n = 90,118) completed the In-School Survey. A subsample (n = 20,745 in 132 schools), selected evenly across school pairs, then participated in the In-Home Interview at Wave 1 (April-December 1985) and Wave 2 (April-August 1996). These data can be

tion, occurs at the mesosystem level of the development ecology. Studying conditioning effects is certainly not new in research on human relationships (see Astone, Nathanson, Schoen, & Kim, 1999), but it is less common in research on adolescent friendships. Two recent studies, however, have demonstrated the value of this approach (Crosnoe et al., 2003; Haynie, 2001). We built on this work by examining the mesosystem-level interaction of the friendship group with two larger contexts in which it is embedded. The first of these two contexts is the peer network. Small groups are often units in networks of social ties (Ennett & Bauman, 1996). In adolescence, for example, cliques are subgroups of diffuse peer crowds (Brown, 1990). The characteristics of these networks predict behavior beyond the characteristics of friends (Gold, 1970). This study was less concerned with the direct effects of peer networks than with their potential to moderate associations between the characteristics of friends and adolescents. Recent research suggests that such moderation does occur for delinquency. Building on prior research that delinquent friends have greater effects on adolescent delinquency when the friendships are higher in attachment and contact (Agnew, 1991; Giordano et al., 1986), Haynie (2001) found that characteristics of the larger peer network also conditioned the associations between the delinquency of friends and adolescents. To extend Haynie's (2001) network framework, this study examined whether peer network density and centrality condition associations between friendship group characteristics and adolescent behavioral problems. We expected that these associations would be stronger when density-the degree to which network members are connected to each other-is high because dense networks increase interaction among network members and block external influence. We also expected that these associations would be stronger when centrality-a member's ties to all others in a network-is high because more central network members are more connected to other individuals and more exposed to behavioral models in the network (Haynie, 2001; Wasserman & Faust, 1994). The second context is the school. Again, past research has effectively shown that characteristics of schools (e.g., structure, composition, climate) predict friendship formation, the characteristics of friendship groups, and participation in peer-based activities (Kubitschek & Hallinan, 1998; Moody, 2001; Quiroz, Gonzalez, & Frank, 1996). Our focus, however, was on whether school factors condition

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Adolescent Friendship


linked to interviews administrators. Measures


parents and school

Table 1

Statistics for All StudyVariables Descriptive M (SD) %

0.54 0.54 0.19 0.16 0.09 0.03 0.55 16.62 (1.40) 4.97 (1.80) 1.00 (1.33) 1.11 (0.86) 2.81 (0.78) 1.55 (1.22) 1.04 (1.02) 0.20 0.42 0.28 0.14 1.08 (0.93) 1.10 (0.51) 2.82 (0.54) 1.57 (0.79) 0.29 (0.15) 0.95 (0.59) 0.01 (0.62) 3.63 (0.14)

The dependent variable was measured with data from the Wave 1 In-Home Interview, and all other variables with data from the In-School Survey that preceded it. Descriptive statistics for all study variables are included in Table 1. Adolescent behavioral problems. The dependent variable was constructed to move beyond the friends' characteristics studied here. For example, alcohol use, academic achievement, and emotional distress were all used to gauge characteristics of the friendship group. Employing any one as the outcome would prioritize that characteristic of friends and hamper our ability to examine how different friends' characteristics come together. To avoid this, we drew on the work of Cook, Herman, Phillips, and Settersten (2002), who argued that a measure summarizing involvement in multiple domains of behavior better gauges overall adjustment in a way that allows the comparison of diverse predictors of adjustment. This approach is reflected in risk scales in developmental and educational research (Crosnoe et al., 2003; Furstenberg, Cook, Eccles, Elder, & Sameroff, 1999). Thus, adolescent behavioral problems is an index of four binary items: whether, in the past year, the adolescent had stolen something worth more than $50 (1 = yes), engaged in sexual intercourse (1 = yes), had a record of truancy (1 = had skipped school five or more times), and gotten into a physical fight (1 = yes). These items load onto one factor in a factor analysis. Friends' characteristics.In the In-School Survey, each adolescent was asked to list up to five female and five male friends. The adolescent's data could be matched to the data of any friend who had also participated in the In-School Survey. Thus, all friendship measures represent the mean of the selfreported characteristics of all listed friends in the sample and not the respondents' estimation of the characteristics of their friends. The former measures are superior to the latter because adolescents overestimate the extent to which their friends are similar to them and lack complete knowledge about what their friends think and do, a bias that has been repeatedly targeted as a primary weakness of research on peer dynamics (Billy,Rodgers, & Udry, 1984; Kandel, 1996). Items on the incidence and prevalence of alcohol consumption in the past year were combined into one scale, ranging from 0 (none) to 7 (everyday).

Characteristics of adolescents Gender (female) Non-Hispanic White African American Hispanic American Asian American Other race and ethnicity Family structure (two-parent) Age (years) Parent education Alcohol use Emotional distress Academic achievement Extracurricular participation Adolescent outcomes Behavioral problems Stealing Sexual intercourse Physical fight Truancy Characteristics of friendship group Friends' alcohol use Friends' emotional distress Friends' academic achievement Friends' extracurricular participation Peer network factors Network density Network centrality School factors Academic press Intergenerational bonding Note. n = 9,234.

Adolescents' self-reported grades in four subjects (math, science, English, and social studies) were averaged and converted to a standard 4-point scale. The reports of all friends on these two measures,

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Crosnoe and Needham Individual-level controls. All analyses controlled for adolescent-reported gender (1 = female), age (in years), race and ethnicity (dummy variables for nonHispanic White, African American, Hispanic American, Asian American, other), family structure (1 = adolescent lived with both biological parents, 0 = other family type), and parent education (1 = eighth grade or less to 9 = professional training, averaged across parents in two-parent families). Also included were controls of the adolescents' own level of the four characteristics used in the creation of the friendship group (alcohol use, academic achievement, emotional distress, and extracurricular participation). Plan of Analysis First, we identified friendship group profiles through cluster-analytic techniques that sorted adolescents into groups on the basis of the configurations of their friends' characteristics. Because of the number of observations in Add Health, we were unable to use a hierarchical clustering procedure. Instead, we used kmeans clustering in STATA, a nonhierarchical clustering method that assigned observations to the appropriate cluster through an iterative procedure on the basis of z scores of the four friends' characteristics. We first specified the number of cluster seeds. After the initial partitioning of observations, STATA calculated Euclidean distances and assigned observations to the nearest centroid. To obtain an optimal result, in which clusters represented homogeneous groupings, we considered several cluster solutions (three to six) and ultimately decided on the four-cluster solution, which provided distinct substantive clusters. Each cluster represented a type of friendship group adolescents in the same cluster had friends with similar characteristics. As a reliability test, we attempted to replicate this four-cluster solution for several random subsamples of the full study sample. With some slight variations in the mean level of behaviors in one of the clusters, the four cluster solution for each of these subsamples closely approximated that from the full study sample. Next, we predicted adolescent behavioral problems in one year by friendship group characteristics and friendship group profiles in the previous year as well as sociodemographic controls and measures of the adolescent's level of the four behaviors that were also measured for friends. We included these four adolescent behaviors in an effort to account partially for selection biases. If we found that friends' emotional distress predicted greater behavior problems,

averaged across friends, served as the constructs for friends' alcohol use and friends' academic achievement. Two other characteristics, friends' emotional distress and friends' extracurricular participation, were created in the same way. Emotional distress was measured with a modified Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale-the mean of adolescent reports of how often, in the past month, they had trouble eating, felt depressed or blue, were moody, and cried a lot, ranging from 0 (never) to 4 (everyday).Although a fuller distress scale was available in the In-Home Interviews, only these four items from the scale were included on the In-School Survey. Students also reported whether they had engaged in 33 extracurricularactivities, which were grouped into five categories (athletic, academic, performing arts, leadership, and other) and then summed. Peer network measures. Numerous network measures, constructed with the In-School friendship nominations, were made publicly available with the Add Health data. This study used two such measures. Network density represented the number of ties in the respondent's send-and-receive network divided by the number of possible ties in the total send-and-receive network (corrected for the total number of friends that could be nominated by each respondent, or 10). Network centrality was measured by Bonacich centrality, or the respondent's centrality weighted by the centrality of those to whom the respondent had sent ties. School measures. The first school measure, academic press, was the mean of four standardized items: mean academic achievement, mean educational aspirations (adolescent rating, on a scale of 1 to 5, of how much they wanted to go to college), percentage of the student body taking math and science classes, and percentage of seniors going on to 4-year colleges. The first three items in this scale were created by aggregating all responses on the InSchool Survey (a near census of each school) within each school, and the last was measured by the reports of an administrator from each school. For intergenerational bonding in the school, we created an individual-level measure of student-teacher bonding: the mean of adolescent reports of whether they had trouble getting along with teachers, believed that their teachers treated students fairly, and felt that teachers cared about them (alpha = .68). Responses ranged from 1 (almost everyday) to 5 (never) for the first item, 1 (never) to 5 (very much) for the second item, and 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) for the third item. We then averaged this individual-level measure across all students in each school to create the school-level measure.

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Adolescent Friendship 269 for example, this could not be simply because distressed adolescents were more likely to belong to such a friendship group. Finally, we included interaction terms, for each peer network and each school variable with each friends' characteristic and each friendship group profile, to the base model to examine contextual variability. Each context was studied separately. Because count variables violate assumptions of normality in ordinary least squares regression, we used Poisson regression to predict our outcome. Because the Add Health sampling was school based, which violates assumptions of independence in regression, we had to control for the clustered nature of the data to estimate robust standard errors. Fortunately, the survey procedure in STATAhandled design effects, incorporated sampling weights, and performed Poisson regression. Although not a multilevel modeling procedure, this procedure provided reasonably valid within-school estimates, important for the set of models in this study that focused on school effects (see Harris, Duncan, & Boisjoly, 2002, for a similar approach). We note that we were able to replicate these school-focused models with the glimmix macro in SAS, which adapted multilevel modeling techniques to noncontinuous outcomes, although we do not report the results of these methodological checks here. We also note that standard likelihood ratio tests are inappropriate for survey Poisson; therefore, we have not included goodness-of-fit statistics with our models. As a final note on the handling of missing data, this study employed mean-mode substitution rather than listwise deletion, a more common method that would have resulted in the exclusion of too large a number of cases. After entering the mean for each continuous variable (or mode for binary variables) missing for each case, we created a binary flag designating those for whom values had been imputed. These flags were included in all models. Only the flag for friends' academic achievement was consistently significant, indicating that adolescents were not missing on this variable at random. As a result, only this flag was included in the final set of models, and the apparent bias indicated by this flag should be remembered in the interpretation of results. Selection of Study Sample The base Add Health data set for this sample was the Wave 1 In-Home Interview (core plus special samples). The analytical sample for this study was created by applying four selection filters to these base data. Table 2 presents descriptive statistics, including sample sizes, for each stage of the selection process. First, a longitudinal framework was necessary to examine how friendships were related to changes in adolescent behavior. Because friendships are best measured with the In-School Survey, in which the census-like sample of schools caught the most friends, In-School Wave 1 was the best time frame for this study. Four schools did not allow the InSchool Survey but did allow their students to participate in the In-Home Interviews, and some adolescents were added after the In-School Survey to create oversamples in the In-Home Interviews. Thus, this longitudinal framework excluded some adolescents who participated in the Wave 1 In-Home Interview.

Table 2 Descriptive Statistics for Four Stages in the Selection of the Final Study Sample Mean Sample la Non-Hispanic White Gender (female) Age (in years) Family structure (two-parent) Parent education Number of friends Adolescent behavioral problems n 0.50 0.51 16.16 0.50 4.82 4.94 1.09 20,475 Sample 2b 0.50 0.51 16.12 0.52 4.89 6.68 1.03 15,355 Sample 3c 0.50 0.51 16.68 0.52 4.90 6.70 1.09 12,068 Sample 4d 0.50 0.51 16.67 0.53 4.91 6.76 1.07 11,355 Sample 5e 0.54 0.54 16.62 0.55 4.97 7.85 1.04 9,234

aFull Wave 1 sample. bIncluded filter to Sample 1 for being in In-School Survey and Wave 1. CIncluded filter to Sample 2 for being in high school (school with 12th grade). dIncluded filter to Sample 3 for having a valid sampling weight. eIncluded filter to Sample 4 for having valid information on at least one friendship variable.

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Crosnoe and Needham among adolescents who have friends. This is clearly different from using a less specialized sample and is a drawback of using network data to study friendship dynamics. Yet, the value of using non-egobased measures of friends' characteristics has been so well documented and alternatives approaches so heavily criticized (Kandel, 1996) that we argue that the narrowing of the sample that results from using network data is balanced by other methodological advantages of these data. The application of these filters resulted in a study sample of 9,234 adolescents in 71 schools (the sample size for all multivariate analyses). These filters did bias the sample toward greater social advantage and more conventional behavior (see Table 2). These biases must be remembered in the interpretation of results, although we argue that these filters were necessary to examine the dynamics at the heart of this study and that the study sample had the advantages of being longitudinal, multilevel, and multisource. Results Four Adolescent FriendshipGroups A key aim of this study was to treat the adolescent friendship group in a multidimensional way. We measured, therefore, four different characteristics where each represented one dimension of the friendship group. These four characteristics could also be used together to identify holistic friendship group profiles. From our cluster analysis, we selected four such friendship group profiles. These four profiles are presented graphically in Figure 1 (with standardized values, M = 0). Within each profile, adolescents had similar types of friends. Across the four profiles, adolescents had different types of friends. Because these profiles represent the configuration of various characteristics of friends, two profiles may have similar levels of one characteristic (e.g., friends' achievement), but no two profiles have the same configuration of friends' characteristics (e.g., the profiles similar in achievement differed in friends' alcohol use). In the following, we give a general description of each friendship group profile. Descriptive statistics on the demographic, network, school, and friends' characteristics of adolescents in each friendship group profile are given in the Appendix. Maladjusted. Adolescents who fit this profile had friends with the lowest level of adjustment. Their friends drank much more and were more emotionally distressed than the friends of adolescents in other profiles. Conversely, their friends were rela-

Second, our sample contained only adolescents who attended high school, including 7th and 8th graders enrolled in comprehensive (7th- 12th grades) schools. Several behaviors of friends studied here are age graded, increasing significantly across the transition to high school. At the same time, the school represents the market for friendship formation, with adolescents typically drawing their friends from their schools. Considering both of these factors, 7th and 8th graders who attend traditional middle schools will typically have friends with different characteristics than those of 9th through 12th graders because their pool of potential friends is characterized by lower engagement in risk behavior and fewer opportunities for activity participation in school. This difference in the pool of friends would likely drive the assignment of these younger adolescents to friendship group profiles in our clustering method. Yet, Add Health does contain some comprehensive schools, and we argue that, because of the focus of this study, the 7th and 8th graders in these schools are qualitatively different from those in traditional middle schools. Because they mix with older adolescents on a regular basis, their pool of potential friends is likely to be more diverse. If we were performing a cluster analysis on the behaviors of adolescents, therefore, we would separate all 7th and 8th graders from older adolescents. Because we were focusing on the behaviors of friends, however, we decided to separate our cluster analysis by school location (high school students and younger adolescents in comprehensive schools vs. younger adolescents in traditional middle or junior high schools). In this study, we focused on the first of these groups, and we return to the second group in the future. Third, the oversampling of some groups in Add Health means that the raw data are not nationally representative (Chantala & Tabor, 1999). Sampling weights were required to correct for this. Thus, our analytical sample included only adolescents who had a valid sampling weight assigned to them. In doing so, we eliminated all students in the two schools in which sample weights could not be calculated. Fourth, the construction of friendship measures required that respondents nominate at least one friend who participated in In-School Survey and provided valid information on the characteristic of interest. The portion of the sample missing on friends' characteristics because of these requirements was excluded. Of those excluded by this filter, most did not nominate any friends, and a smaller percentage nominated friends who were not in an Add Health school. Thus, this study is best thought of as an examination of school friendships

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Adolescent Friendship
O Friends' Drinking 0 Friends' Achievement 1. Distress Emotional ? Friends' ? Friends' Participation










Friendship GroupProfiles Figure1. Four adolescent friendship group profiles.

tively disconnected from the schooling process, had lower grades, and were less likely to participate in schooling activities than the friends of adolescents in all but one other profile. Disengaged. In this profile, the adolescents had friends who were low on all factors, those typically associated with lower adjustment (e.g., drinking, emotional distress) as well as those with better functioning (e.g., academic achievement, extracurricular participation). In other words, their friends appeared to be withdrawn and removed from social life. Engaged. This friendship group profile was the mirror image of the disengaged profile. The adolescents who fit this profile were high on all factors, those associated with both lower and higher adjustment. In other words, their friends were active in multiple domains, both positive and negative. They were highly involved in schooling but, at the same time, drank at a high frequency and had more emotional problems. High functioning. The final profile consisted of adolescents with friends who showed the highest level of overall adjustment. These friends were highly involved in schooling, avoided alcohol use, and had the least emotional problems. DevelopmentalSignificanceof Adolescent Friendship Groups The next objective of this study was to examine whether multiple dimensions of the friendship

group were related to adolescent behavioral problems. Table 3 presents the results of a series of Poisson regression models relevant to this phenomenon. In the base model (Model 1), the adolescent outcome was regressed on sociodemographic controls as well as measures of the adolescents' level of the same characteristics used to measure friends' characteristics. As expected, adolescents who did well in school and participated in school activities had fewer behavioral problems the next year, but those who were emotionally distressed or drank alcohol had more. For the variable-centered analysis, we added to this base model the four friends' characteristics (Model 2). Friends' characteristics predicted adolescent behavioral problems in the same way as the corresponding adolescent characteristics in Model 1, except that the coefficient for friends' extracurricular participation was only marginally significant. To gauge the size of these effects, we first exponentiated and then standardized all Poisson coefficients. Doing so allowed us to interpret these transformed coefficients as the amount of change in the outcome (expressed in terms of percentage of the standard deviation of the outcome) for each standard deviation change in the independent variable and to compare all coefficients in the model with each other. Examination of these exponentiated, standardized coefficients in Model 2 of Table 3 (not shown) revealed that adolescents were .90 times less likely

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Table 3

Crosnoe and Needham ment, an effect size that exceeded or equaled all times more likely to engage in problem behaviors (7% of a standard deviation in behavioral problems) with every standard deviation increase in friends' alcohol use and 1.03 times more likely (2% of a standard deviation in behavioral problems) with every standard deviation increase in friends' emotional distress. These latter two effect sizes were similar in magnitude to most demographic factors. For the person-centered analyses, we added to the base model the dummy variables for the friendship group profiles (Model 3). We have presented the results with the high-functioning profile as the reference category, although we supplement these results with information from models in which the reference was rotated. Compared with the highfunctioning profile, adolescents in the maladjusted profile were 1.14 times more likely to have behavioral problems (derived from exponentiating the standardized Poisson coefficients), which translated into a between-group difference of 13% of a standard deviation in behavioral problems. This effect size exceeded all but gender and adolescent alcohol use. Again, compared with the high-functioning profile, adolescents in the disengaged profile were 1.11 times more likely to engage in behavioral problems (10% of a standard deviation change in behavioral problems), and those in the engaged profile were 1.05 times more likely (5% of a standard deviation change in behavioral problems) to engage in behavioral problems. The effect size for the disengaged profile was equal to or exceeded those of all other coefficients in the model except for gender, age, African American status, adolescent alcohol use, and adolescent achievement. The effect size for the engaged profile was similar in magnitude to most demographic factors. Rotating the reference category revealed significant differences among all four groups. The final model in Table 3 (Model 4) added friends' characteristics and profile membership to the base model simultaneously. In this comprehensive model, the coefficient for friends' alcohol use remained the same, but the coefficient for friends' emotional distress became nonsignificant. Comparison of exponentiated, standardized coefficients (not shown) revealed that the reduced effect size for friends' achievement (now about 8% of a standard deviation decrease in behavioral problems for every standard deviation increase in friends' achievement) had fallen below age and African American status. Controlling for the four friends' characteristics also washed out many of the significant differences

Resultsof PoissonRegression Behavioral Problems Predicting by Friend- other coefficients in the model except for gender and shipFactors adolescents' alcohol use. Adolescents were 1.07
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4 Characteristics of adolescents -.28*** Gender (female) (.03) .08*** Age (years) (.01) -.16*** Family structure (.03) (two-parent) Parent education -.04*** (.01) .27*** African American (.04) .11* Hispanic American (.05) .03 Asian American Other race and ethnicity Alcohol use Emotional distress Academic achievement Extracurricular participation Characteristics of friends Friends' alcohol use Friends' emotional distress Friends' academic achievement Missing on friends' academic achievement Friends' extracurricular participation Friendship group profiles Maladjusted Disengaged Engaged Intercept - .81 - .36 (.09) .19* (.08) .18** (.01) .12** (.02) - .18** (.02) - .03* (.01)

-.30*** -.31***
(.03) (.03)

(.01) (.02)

(.01) (.02)

-.14*** -.15*** -.04**

(.01) .27*** (.05)

- .04***
(.01) .29*** (.04) .12*

.10o (.05)
.09 (.10) .15t (.08)

(.05) .07
(.10) .17* (.08)

(.01) .11** (.02) --.13*** (.02) .00 (.01)

(.01) .11'** (.02)

- .15*** (.02)
-.01 (.01)

(.02) .06* (.02) -.19*** (.03) .11 (.09)


.33*** (.05) .22***


(.04) - .91

Note. Unstandardized b coefficients are presented, with errors in parentheses. tp<.10. *p<.05. **p<.01. ***p<.001.

to have behavioral problems (about 10% of a standard deviation in behavioral problems) with every standard deviation increase in friends' achieve-

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Adolescent Friendship among the friendship group profiles. In the final model, the high-functioning friendship group profile had a significantly lower level of behavioral problems than the other three profiles. Compared with this profile, membership in the three other profiles was related to roughly 5% of a standard deviation increase in behavioral problems, an effect size, in standardized form, about equal to race and ethnicity and family socioeconomic status. Rotating the reference group revealed no other significant differences among the four friendship group profiles. Intersectionof Adolescent FriendshipGroupsand Social Context Having examined the developmental significance of friendship factors, we now turn to the mesosystem level of the developmental ecology: the intersection of the friendship group with other social contexts. Specifically, we examined whether aspects of the peer network and the school moderated the longitudinal associations between friendship factors and adolescent behavioral problems. Table 4 presents the results for peer networks. Model 1 added the main effects of the two network factors to the final comprehensive model from the previous table. Neither the density of adolescents' peer networks nor their centrality in these networks were related to their level of behavioral problems. Model 2 in Table 4 added the interactions of network density with the four friends' characteristics and with the three friendship group profiles. None of these interactions was significant. Model 3 added interactions of network centrality with the four friends' characteristics and with the three friendship group profiles. Two of these interactions were statistically significant. To interpret these interactions, we wrote out multiple equations-alternating the values of the friendship factors (1 SD below and above the mean for friends' characteristics, 1 and 0 for friendship group profiles) and the network factor (1 SD below and above the mean) and holding all other variables in the models to their sample means. Beginning with the interaction between friends' alcohol use and network centrality, writing out the equations revealed that friends' alcohol use differentiated, in terms of behavioral problems, adolescents regardless of their location in their peer networks. Adolescents, both central and noncentral, drank more when they had friends who drank above-average amounts of alcohol. This increase associated with having friends who drank, however, was much greater for centrally located adolescents


Table 4 Results From Poisson Regression Predicting Adolescent Behavioral Problemsby Friendshipand Network Factors
Model 1 Network factors Network density Network centrality Characteristics of friends Friends' alcohol use Friends' emotional distress Friends' academic achievement Missing on friends' academic achievement Friends' extracurricular participation Friendship group profiles Maladjusted Disengaged Engaged Interaction terms (Network x Friend) Alcohol Density x Friends' Use Density x Friends Emotional Distress Density x Friends' Academic Achievement Density x Friends' Participation Density x Maladjusted Density x Disengaged Density x Engaged Centrality x Friends' Alcohol Use Centrality x Friends' Emotional Distress Centrality x Friends' Academic Achievement Centrality x Friends' Participation Centrality x Maladjusted Centrality x Disengaged Centrality x Engaged Intercept Model 2 Model 3

-.09 (.08) -.02 (.03) .07** (.02) .04 (.03) -.15** (.04) .21t (.10) -.03 (.02) .13* (.06) .11* (.05) .10* (.04)

-.28 (.20) -.02 (.03) .07** (.02) .04 (.03) -.15*** (.04) .23* (.10)

- .08 (.08) .08 (.06)

(.02) .03 (.03) - .17'** (.04) .30* (.11) -.06* (.03) .06 (.07) .08 (.05) .10* (.05)

(.02) .13* (.06) .11* (.05) .10* (.04) .06 (.09) .07 (.12) .01 (.14) .10 (.11) .15 (.33) .43 (.32) .18 (.30)



.09** (.03) -.01 (.05) -.06 (.06) -.07 (.05) .27* (.10) -.09 (.08) -.13 (.09) -.44

Note. Unstandardized b coefficients are presented, with standard errors in parentheses. All models controlled for gender, age, family structure, race and ethnicity, parent education, adolescent academic achievement, adolescent alcohol use, adolescent emotional distress, and adolescent extracurricular participation.
tp<.10. *p<.05. **p<.01. ***p<.001.

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Crosnoe and Needham

Table 5 Results From Poisson Regression Models Predicting Adolescent BehavioralProblemsby FriendshipFactors and School Factors Model 1
School factors School academic press School intergenerational bonding Characteristics of friends Friends' alcohol use Friends' emotional distress Friends' academic achievement Missing on friends' academic achievement Friends' extracurricular participation Friendship group profiles Maladjusted Disengaged Engaged Interaction terms (School x Friend) Press x Friends' Alcohol Use Press x Friends' Emotional Distress Press x Friends' Academic Achievement Press x Friends' Participation Press x Maladjusted Press x Disengaged Press x Engaged Bonding x Friends' Alcohol Use Bonding x Friends' Emotional Distress Bonding x Friends' Academic Achievement Bonding x Friends' Participation Bonding x Maladjusted Bonding x Disengaged Bonding x Engaged Intercept .02 (.05) -.52* (.25) .07** (.02) .04 (.03) -.13** (.04)

(157% increase in the predicted level of behavioral problems) than for those who were more peripheral in their networks (64%). The interaction term for the maladjusted profile essentially reflected the same phenomenon-centrality strengthening the implications for adolescent behavior of being in maladjusted friendship groups compared with high-functioning friendship groups. In general, centrally located adolescents in friendship groups high in alcohol use or in maladjusted friendship groups had the highest rates of behavioral problems, generally twice that of other adolescents. Table 5 presents the results for school context. As seen in Model 1, the main effect of school academic press on adolescent behavioral problems was not significant. On the other hand, adolescents had fewer behavioral problems when attending schools higher in intergenerational bonding: A 1 SD increase in intergenerational bonding was associated with 10% of a standard deviation decrease in behavioral problems. The magnitude of this association, in standardized form, was larger than all friendship factors. Models 2 and 3 added interaction terms between the two school factors and the two sets of friendship factors. We followed the same procedure described earlier to interpret the multiple significant interaction terms in these models. For academic press, three interactions terms were significant (note that one significant interaction was found when the engaged friendship group profile served as the reference category and therefore is not seen in Table 5). First, all adolescents had fewer behavioral problems when they had friends who did well academically, but this decrease in the predicted level of behavioral problems related to friends' achievement was greater in academically rigorous schools (25% vs. 5%). Adolescents with high-achieving friends in schools that emphasized academic success had the lowest rates of behavioral problems. Second, a different pattern emerged for friends' alcohol use. The behavioral problems of adolescents whose friends drank below-average amounts did not fluctuate by level of academic press in the school. On the other hand, adolescents who had friends who drank typically had more behavioral problems (11%increase) when they attended academically rigorous schools than when they attended schools low in academic press. Third, in schools low in academic press, adolescents in the disengaged friendship group profile had more behavioral problems than those in the engaged profile, but the mirror image of this difference was found for schools high in academic press (e.g., those in the engaged profile had more problems).

Model 2
.03 (.08) .62* (.26) .07** (.02) .03 (.03) -.15'** (.02) .17t (.09)

Model 3
-.01 (.04) -.62 (.38) .08*** (.02) .04 (.03) - .16*** (.04)

(.09) -.03 (.02) .12* (.06) .10t (.05)



(.02) .09 (.06) .06 (.05) .07 (.04) .06' (.03) .00 (.05) -.13* (.05) -.03 (.04) -.07 (.11) -.11 (.08) .06 (.08)

(.02) .08 (.06) .04 (.05) .06 (.04)



.45** (.16) -.06 (.15) (.20) .01 (.10) -.24 (.54) -.34 (.33) .61 (.33) 1.85



Note. Unstandardized b coefficients are presented, with standard errors in parentheses. All models controlled for gender, age, family structure, race and ethnicity, parent education, adolescent academic achievement, adolescent alcohol use, adolescent emotional distress, and adolescent extracurricular participation. tp<.10. *p<.05. **p<.01. ***p<.001.

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Adolescent Friendship For intergenerational bonding in the school, five interaction terms were significant. First, attendance at schools characterized by high levels of intergenerational bonding was related to fewer behavioral problems for all adolescents, regardless of their friends' characteristics, but this decrease was slightly stronger for adolescents who had friends who were low achievers. Adolescents who had low-achieving friends in schools with low levels of intergenerational bonding had the most behavioral problems, and those with high-achieving friends in schools with high levels of bonding had the least. Second, attendance at schools high in intergenerational bonding was related to fewer behavioral problems, but only for adolescents who had friends who did not drink (250% increase in predicted behavioral problems across schools in this group). If adolescents had friends who drank, their rate of behavioral problems did not vary by the level of bonding in their school. Third through fifth, the maladjusted, disengaged, and high-functioning friendship group profiles all interacted with intergenerational bonding in school when compared with the engaged profile (results for maladjusted and disengaged profiles are not shown in Table 5). In all of these profiles, behavioral problems were lower in schools with higher levels of intergenerational bonding, but this was less true of the adolescents in the engaged profile. Discussion Friendships have long been a central focus of the literatures on early development and lifelong interpersonal relations. This study, guided by the ecological perspective and built on recent research, addressed both literatures by focusing on two aspects of adolescent friendships: their multidimensional nature and sensitivity to social context. In other words, this study attempted to capture the complexity of the adolescent friendship group and to locate it within the larger developmental ecology. First, we viewed the adolescent friendship group on the microsystem level, as an interpersonal context with direct developmental significance for young people. In doing so, we sought to cast a wider net by considering multiple dimensions of the friendship group as independent factors and as components of holistic friendship group profiles. The variablecentered approach revealed the additive value of considering multiple characteristics of friends. Not surprising, alcohol use, which is also considered a problem behavior in the early life course, predicted greater adolescent behavioral problems. Friends'


achievement, however, predicted less behavioral problems even after accounting for the level of drinking in the friendship group, supporting social control perspectives on the value of conventional norms (Hirschi, 1998). At the same time, friends' emotional distress, an understudied phenomenon, also predicted behavioral problems even after these more commonly studied aspects of the friendship group were taken into account, suggesting that the mental health of friends likely affects their ability to serve as prosocial models or social controls. The person-centered approach, on the other hand, demonstrated some value in using diverse characteristics of friends as interrelated parts of a larger group climate rather than as competing predictors. For example, comparison of the disengaged and engaged friendship group profiles revealed that friends' drinking was less problematic if it occurred in tandem with more prosocial behaviors. As another example, friends' emotional distress was lowest in two profiles, disengaged and high functioning, which diverged sharply in adolescent behavioral problems. In other words, friends' characteristics can balance each other in positive or negative ways. Although many of these distinctions were washed out by controls for the friends' characteristics that constituted the profiles, the significantly better adjustment of adolescents who fit the high-functioning friendship group profile indicated that, beyond the role of any one friendship factor, having friends who were well adjusted across the board was more developmentally significant compared with having friendship groups that were more inconsistent or were consistently maladjusted. In other words, multiple factors each has its own role in adolescent development, but these factors also come together in holistic packages to predict developmental outcomes. In this study, the variablecentered and person-oriented approaches have been set up as competitors, and in this sense, the variablecentered approach was the "winner." Yet, we argue that each approach offers something different and differently valuable to the study of interpersonal relationships and that they should be used in tandem or even interchangeably, depending on the research focus. As discussed earlier, developmental research has increasingly relied on both approaches to classify individuals and social contexts, a trend closely related to sociological debates on new methods (e.g., sequencing) for understating lifecourse dynamics (Abbott, 1995). Our experience suggests that the integration of multiple methods might very well be the best way to pursue these important goals.

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Crosnoe and Needham of intergenerational caring, closeness, and mentoring in an institution might be a form of protection among certain groups of students. The different patterns demonstrated by these two school characteristics may indicate that they represent qualitatively different dimensions of the social context of schools-one normative (e.g., standards) and one socioemotional (e.g., connections among people). For these mesosystem-level analyses, we expected that the network characteristics would strengthen the developmental significance of all friendship factors and that the school characteristics would strengthen the more positive factors and weaken the more negative factors, but the observed pattern of interactions was more complicated. Thus, our results indicate that contextual variability in the developmental significance of friendship factors is highly specific to the different dimensions of social context and the friendship group being examined. Each of the examples of contextual variability that we presented tells an interesting story and should be explored more deeply. Doing so, and possibly looking for more general patterns of contextual variability, could be valuable. Coupled with the extensive past research demonstrating the effects of social contexts on friendship associations, such research more fully captures the complex ecology of adolescent development. Future research on adolescent friendships or other relationships can build on the approaches taken in this study-variable centered, person oriented, interactive and correct some of its limitations. For example, this study focused on the developmental significance of friendship group membership in a relatively short time frame, but a long-term perspective would be valuable. Such a perspective might lead to the examination of the developmental trajectories of adolescents who have different types of friends or the comparison of friendship group profiles in adolescence, young adulthood, and other stages of the life course. Such inquiries will be made possible with the new wave of Add Health, which will follow respondents across the transition to young adulthood. Another potential improvement concerns the measurement of the friendship group. This study focused on only four characteristics of friends, but other multidimensional treatments of the friendship group can move beyond behavior and mental health to examine the demographic characteristics of friends, the affective aspects of friendships, or some combination of these. Likewise, this study focused on a limited number of social contexts and a limited number of indicators of these social contexts, but a

Second, we viewed the adolescent friendship group on the mesosystem level, as a context that interacts with other ecological settings to direct development. Specifically, we drew on recent sociological research to examine how the peer network and the school moderate the associations between friends' characteristics (and friendship group profiles) and adolescent behavioral outcomes. Beginning with the peer network, we found that network centrality, but not density, moderated the developmental significance of friendship factors. For example, centrality strengthened the associations of both friends' drinking and membership in the maladjusted friendship profile with adolescent behavior. More centrally located adolescents are more exposed to behavioral models in the network. As a result, drinking in the network as well as the configuration of characteristics captured in the maladjusted profile are likely to have a greater impact on those at the center of the network. These findings are similar to those of Haynie (2001), although for behavioral problems (as opposed to delinquency) centrality was the primary network moderator rather than density. This discrepancy suggests a domain-specific conditioning effect for different aspects of social networks. These findings are also relevant to new fields of inquiry in social network research that center on the structural aspects of social cohesion, including their role in the flow of norms and information (Moody & White, 2003). Turning to school context, the role of friends, both positive and negative, was greater in academically rigorous schools, which suggests parallel, but related, phenomena. Echoing earlier research on rebellion (Stinchcombe, 1964), adolescent associations that are marginalized in a school (e.g., drinking friends in academically oriented schools) can foster more problematic behavior, but social redundancy (e.g., friends' values reinforcing institutional values) is especially protective. In these same schools, adolescents in engaged friendship groups, whose friends had both positive and negative characteristics, typically had more behavioral problems than in other schools. Such adolescents might respond to mixed messages, among friends and between their friends and the school, in problematic ways. Another school context moderated the significance of adolescent friendships in a different way. With one exception, our results suggest that the negative aspects of adolescent friendships were buffered in schools high in intergenerational bonding or, alternatively, that adolescents in more problematic friendship groups benefited more from attendance at such schools. This general pattern suggests that an ethos

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Adolescent Friendship more thorough investigation of contextual variability of friendship dynamics could move beyond this more narrow focus. The family context is certainly a logical area in which to extend this research. Such research can be done with Add Health or with other data sources that contain more extensive family information. The upcoming educational supplement to Add Health, which will collect high school transcripts and data on course material and content for all respondents, will allow a much more detailed rendering of institutional context (at the school and curricular levels) that will greatly benefit this line of research. Pursuing these lines of inquiry is an important goal. By taking an ecological perspective on the developmental significance of these groups, this study extends the rich literature on adolescent friendship. At the same time, the lessons of this study and of the literature in which it is grounded-that friendships are multidimensional and context specific-can extend beyond the specific type of personal relationship and the specific stage of the life course examined here. Drawing parallels across relationships with spouses, romantic partners, parents, offspring, coworkers, friends, and others at multiple life stages can advance our more general understanding of the ecology of human development. Understanding similarities in the multidimensional, contextualized nature of various relationships would be a good start. References Abbott,A. (1995).Sequenceanalysis:New methods for old Agnew, R. (1991).The interactiveeffects of peer variables Antonucci, T., & Akiyama, H. (1995). Convoys of social relations: Family and friendships within a life span context. In R. Blieszner & V. Hilkevitch (Eds.), CT:Greenwood. of parentaland peer Aseltine, R. (1995).A reconsideration influences on adolescent deviance. Journal of Healthand
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Appendix Breakdownof Four Friendship Group Profiles on the Characteristicsof Friends and the Demographic,Network, and School Characteristicsof Adolescents
Mean Maladjusted Characteristics of friends Friends' alcohol use Friends' emotional distress Friends' academic achievement Friends' extracurricular participation Characteristics of adolescents Gender (female) Age (years) Parent education Family structure (two-parent) Non-Hispanic White 2.32a 1.43a 2.52c 1.18c


Engaged 1.03b 1.41a 3.05b 2.33a .62a 16.80b 5.38a .60b .64a

High functioning

.89b 2.40d 1.05d .53bc 16.55c 4.49c .47cd .37c

.80c 3.29a 1.90b .49c 16.22d 5.40a .63a .56b

4.63b .48cd


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Adolescent Friendship Appendix (continued) Mean Maladjusted African American Hispanic American Asian American Other race and ethnicity Characteristics of social contexts Network density Network centrality School academic press School intergenerational bonding n .12c .16b .03c .03a .28b .84b - .05c 3.61c 1,856 Disengaged .28a .25a .06b .03a .28b .87b -.21d 3.60c 2,549 Engaged .16b .10c .08b .02a .28b


High functioning .16b .10c .17a .02a .30a 1.06a .20a 3.67a 2,461

.14b 3.64b 2,145

Note. Means with different subscripts differ significantly (p < .05), as determined by one-way ANOVA, with subscript representing the highest mean. The descriptions for all measures are included in the Method section.

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