Wanna be friends? Patterns and heterogeneity in network selection mechanisms


Ettekal, Andrea Vest & Schaefer, David R. (2016). Wanna be friends? Patterns and heterogeneity in network selection mechanisms. Sunbelt International Social Networks Conference. Newport Beach, CA.


Adolescent friend selection has important consequences for individual development and behavioral outcomes, such as engagement in risky behavior. Friendships can develop through numerous mechanisms (e.g., propinquity, homophily, transitivity), but what is the relative importance of these for observed friendships? This study has two aims: (1) identify the sets of strategies adolescents use to select friends and (2) test whether adolescents systematically differ in which strategies they use. Using data from Add Health, we first estimated network change over time with a stochastic actor-based model (i.e., SIENA). Second, we converted estimated effects into standardized coefficients using Indlekofer and Brandes’ relative influence method. This gives us the importance of each effect in driving observed friendships, compared to other model effects, while adjusting for the association between individual attributes and network position. For Aim 1, we compared deductive and inductive classifications of the relative influences of model effects. We find, for instance, that some adolescents tended to select friends based primarily on propinquity (i.e., peers in the same extracurricular activities and courses) while other adolescents selected friends based more on common behaviors (e.g., substance use). For Aim 2, we tested whether several sociodemographic, psychological, and developmental factors predicted which strategies adolescents used to select friends. We find, for instance, that it was students with higher (vs. lower) academic achievement who were more likely to select friends in the same activities and courses. These results help us understand patterns of friend selection behavior and how they differ across adolescents.

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

Sunbelt International Social Networks Conference


Ettekal, Andrea Vest
Schaefer, David R.

Year Published


City of Publication

Newport Beach, CA

Reference ID