Relationally Constructing Sexual Identity: The Effect of Friendship Networks on Same-Sex Sexuality Development


Kuhlemeier, Alena (2015). Relationally Constructing Sexual Identity: The Effect of Friendship Networks on Same-Sex Sexuality Development.


Drawing upon social network and sexual identity literature, this study investigates the extent to which social integration can influence the development of non-normative sexuality. Existing literature demonstrates the significance of social support in predicting health outcomes. This study seeks to broaden existing understandings of the importance of friendships to encompass their influence on identity development among adolescents questioning their sexual identity. Specifically, this study uses logistic regression to analyze data from two waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Logistic analyses examine the interactive effects of adolescent same sex attraction and each of three distinct friendship network variables on whether or not an individual adopted a non-normative sexual identity in adulthood. Next, the same analyses were performed with each set of results disaggregated by gender. Finally, friendship variable interactions were reexamined using multinomial logistic regression and a categorical construction of the dependent variable. Results indicate that respondents who report same-sex attraction are increasingly likely to adopt a non-normative identity as the number of people who nominate the respondent as a friend increases. This finding was driven by male respondents. The number of friend nominations was an insignificant predictor among female respondents. Female respondents were, instead, more highly influenced by the extent to which their closest friendships were reciprocated. This study’s findings point to the importance of further investigating the relationship between social network characteristics and processes of identity formation among adolescents.


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Kuhlemeier, Alena

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University of New Mexico

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