Profiles of social norms across contexts and adolescent risky behaviors


Wang, Yijie; Lee, Ji Hyun; & Benner, Aprile D. (2018). Profiles of social norms across contexts and adolescent risky behaviors. Global Adolescent Health Equity. Seattle, WA: Journal of Adolescent Health.


Purpose: Research on adolescent risky behaviors has highlighted the importance of social norms (disapproval and prevalence of risky behaviors) in developmental settings (e.g., family, peer; Nash et al., 2005; Coley et al., 2013), but this research often fails to examine various developmental settings simultaneously. Using a holistic approach to investigate social norms across contexts is important, because it more accurately captures adolescents' real-life experiences, and such information could be used to better identify adolescents with unique challenges in particular social settings, allowing for more tailored intervention efforts (Lanza & Rhoades, 2013). Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), the proposed project employs a person-centered approach to 1) explore patterns of social norms around alcohol use and risky sexual behaviors across family and peer settings and 2) link these profiles to youth risky outcomes. Methods: Sample includes 2,969 adolescents who had valid data in Waves 1 and 2 of the public Add Health data. The sample includes 52% females and is racially/ethnically diverse (56% Whites, 25% African Americans, 12% Latinx, 4% Asian Americans, 3% other race/ethnicities). The average grade level of the sample at Wave 1 was 10.41 (SD = 1.19). Social norms at Wave 1 included four indicators: parental report of their own alcohol use, parental report of their warning about consequences of sexual behaviors, youth report of peer alcohol use, and youth report of peer approval of sexual behaviors. Youth risky behaviors included alcohol use and sexual behaviors at Wave 2, as well as initiation into alcohol use and sexual behaviors from Waves 1 to 2. Covariates included youths' gender, grade level, family SES, race/ethnicity, generational status, religiosity, vocabulary test scores, and depression. Results: All analyses were conducted in Mplus 7.4. Latent profile analyses identified four profiles of social norms at Wave 1: a congruent-prosocial profile where parents and peers had high disapproval and low prevalence of risky behaviors (52% of the sample), a congruent-permissive profile where parents and peers were congruently permissive of risky behaviors (6%), an incongruent-developmentally common profile where parents were prosocial but peers were permissive (35%), and an incongruent-resilient profile where parents were permissive but peers were prosocial (7%). Path analyses showed differing relations between social norm profiles and youth risky behaviors. Specifically, adolescents with a congruent-prosocial social norm profile or an incongruent-resilient profile were the least likely to engage in or initiate risky behaviors at Wave 2, followed by adolescents with an incongruent-developmental common profile of social norms, and adolescents with a congruent-permissive social norm profile were the most likely to engage in and initiate risky behaviors (see supplementary materials). Conclusions: The varying developmental implications of social norm profiles highlighted the importance of investigating multiple social settings in a holistic approach. Our next steps involve replicating the profiles and their linkages to youth risky behaviors using a larger sample from the restricted Add Health data.


Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

Global Adolescent Health Equity


Wang, Yijie
Lee, Ji Hyun
Benner, Aprile D.

Year Published


Volume Number





Journal of Adolescent Health

City of Publication

Seattle, WA





Reference ID