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A Latent Variable Approach to Measuring Social Dynamics in Adolescence


In the study of adolescent health, it is useful to derive indices of social dynamics from sociometric data, and to use these indices as predictors of health risk behaviors. In this manuscript, we introduce a flexible latent variable model as a novel way of obtaining estimates of social integration and social status from school-based sociometric data. Such scores provide the flexibility of a regression-based approach while accounting for measurement error in sociometric indicators. We demonstrate the utility of these factor scores in testing complex hypotheses through a combination of structural equation modeling and survival models, showing that deviance mediates the relationship between social status and smoking onset hazard at the transition to high school.

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