A Comparison of Peer Influence and Peer Selection Effects in the Context of Female Adolescents' Sexual Debut

Marko Lucić, Aleksandar Štulhofer

Abstract


Peers are an important source of normative pressure in the
context of adolescent risky behaviors, which is reflected in
high behavioral homophily repeatedly found in adolescent
groups. Two psychosocial mechanisms underlying this
similarity have been identified: peer influence (or pressure)
and peer selection (the process of befriending individuals
similar to oneself). The two mechanisms have been explored
primarily in the context of non-sexual adolescent risk taking
(e.g., tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse). This study is the first
longitudinal comparison of peer influence and peer selection
in the context of female adolescents' sexual initiation. Using
data from 162 female high-school students (Mage = 16
years, SD = 0.47) surveyed online twice in the period of 18
months, a cross-lagged path analysis pointed to a significant
effect of peer influence, but not peer selection. Contrary to
expectations, the moderating effect of peer conformism was
not corroborated. This study’s findings confirm the
importance of taking into account direct and indirect peer
influence when designing comprehensive sexuality education
programs.

Keywords


peer networks; adolescents; peer influence vs selection mechanism; sexual debut; longitudinal assessments

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Copyright (c) 2019 Marko Lucić, Aleksandar Štulhofer

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Print ISSN 1330-0288 | Online ISSN 1848-6096