An examination of racial/ethnic differentials in social network use and the subsequent effects on biomarker outcomes for adolescents in the U.S.




Shinaberry, Daniel J.

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This study expands on previous research regarding associations between social support networks (SSNs) in adolescence and the onset of disease through weight transitions and elevated levels of biomarkers later in life. The study uses Wave I and Wave IV data from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health Survey gathered between 1994 and 2009. The overarching goal of this research was to examine how the social context of adolescence can influence health risks, and how these outcomes differ by race/ethnicity and SES. To best capture the overarching aims of this study, three quantitative analyses were conducted. The second chapter of the study used principal component analysis to determine the best measure of social support networks and acknowledges the multidimensionality of SSNs. The third chapter utilized hazard modeling to decipher the influence of social support networks on weight transitions over the life course, measured by BMI. The fourth chapter examined the association between SSNs and health insults measured by three groups of 9 specific health biomarkers. The key findings include: (1) social support networks for adolescents should be measured as multidimensional, specifically two concepts emerged - structural and perceived dimensions; (2) significant differences were noted between how SSNs operate for racial/ethnic groups and SES; (3) observed differentials in weight transition can be attributed to differences in SSNs for minority racial/ethnic groups compared to non-Hispanic whites; (4) adolescents with increased perceived and structural dimensions of SSNs were less likely to move to a higher BMI category; (5) SSNs, measured by structural and perceived dimensions, lower the onset of cardiovascular, metabolic-lipid, and metabolic-glucose related diseases in early adulthood; (6) the onset of disease, as measured by specific biomarkers, differs for minorities, particularly Hispanics, compared to non-Hispanic whites; and lastly (6) smoking presented a strong and persistent association to the onset of disease, even after controlling for SSNs, race/ethnicity, and SES.


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adolescents, health, social networks