Multiple contexts and adolescent body mass index: Schools, neighborhoods, and social networks


Evans, Clare R.; Onnela, Jukka-Pekka; Williams, David R.; & Subramanian, S. V. (2016). Multiple contexts and adolescent body mass index: Schools, neighborhoods, and social networks. Social Science and Medicine. vol. 162 pp. 21-31


Adolescent health and behaviors are influenced by multiple contexts, including schools, neighborhoods, and social networks, yet these contexts are rarely considered simultaneously. In this study we combine social network community detection analysis and cross-classified multilevel modeling in order to compare the contributions of each of these three contexts to the total variation in adolescent body mass index (BMI). Wave 1 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health is used, and for robustness we conduct the analysis in both the core sample (122 schools; N = 14,144) and a sub-set of the sample (16 schools; N = 3335), known as the saturated sample due to its completeness of neighborhood data. After adjusting for relevant covariates, we find that the school-level and neighborhood-level contributions to the variance are modest compared with the network community-level (σ2school = 0.069, σ2neighborhood = 0.144, σ2network = 0.463). These results are robust to two alternative algorithms for specifying network communities, and to analysis in the saturated sample. While this study does not determine whether network effects are attributable to social influence or selection, it does highlight the salience of adolescent social networks and indicates that they may be a promising context to address in the design of health promotion programs.



United States Body mass index Adolescents Contexts Schools Neighborhoods Social networks

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Social Science and Medicine


Evans, Clare R.
Onnela, Jukka-Pekka
Williams, David R.
Subramanian, S. V.

Year Published


Volume Number





June 3, 2016



Reference ID