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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Same-sex sexual attraction does not spread in adolescent social networks.

  • Author(s): Brakefield, Tiffany A
  • Mednick, Sara C
  • Wilson, Helen W
  • De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel
  • Christakis, Nicholas A
  • Fowler, James H
  • et al.

Peers have a powerful effect on adolescents' beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Here, we examine the role of social networks in the spread of attitudes towards sexuality using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Although we found evidence that both sexual activity (OR = 1.79) and desire to have a romantic relationship (OR = 2.69) may spread from person to person, attraction to same sex partners did not spread (OR = 0.96). Analyses of comparable power to those that suggest positive and significant peer-to-peer influence in sexual behavior fail to demonstrate a significant relationship on sexual attraction between friends or siblings. These results suggest that peer influence has little or no effect on the tendency toward heterosexual or homosexual attraction in teens, and that sexual orientation is not transmitted via social networks.

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