A social network analysis approach to alcohol use and co-occurring addictive behavior in young adults
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INTRODUCTION: The current study applied egocentric social network analysis (SNA) to investigate the prevalence of addictive behavior and co-occurring substance use in college students' networks. Specifically, we examined individuals' perceptions of the frequency of network members' co-occurring addictive behavior and investigated whether co-occurring addictive behavior is spread evenly throughout networks or is more localized in clusters. We also examined differences in network composition between individuals with varying levels of alcohol use. METHOD: The study utilized an egocentric SNA approach in which respondents ("egos") enumerated 30 of their closest friends, family members, co-workers, and significant others ("alters") and the relations among alters listed. Participants were 281 undergraduates at a large university in the Southeastern United States. RESULTS: Robust associations were observed among the frequencies of gambling, smoking, drinking, and using marijuana by network members. We also found that alters tended to cluster together into two distinct groups: one cluster moderate-to-high on co-occurring addictive behavior and the other low on co-occurring addictive behavior. Lastly, significant differences were present when examining egos' perceptions of alters' substance use between the networks of at-risk, light, and nondrinkers. CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide empirical evidence of distinct clustering of addictive behavior among young adults and suggest the promise of social network-based interventions for this cohort.
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