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Social networks and risk for depressive symptoms in a national sample of sexual minority youth


  • Hatzenbuehler, Mark L.
  • McLaughlin, Katie A.
  • Xuan, Ziming


The aim of the study was to examine the social networks of sexual minority youths and to determine the associations between social networks and depressive symptoms. Data were obtained from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), a nationally representative cohort study of American adolescents (N = 14,212). Wave 1 (1994–1995) collected extensive information about the social networks of participants through peer nomination inventories, as well as measures of sexual minority status and depressive symptoms. Using social network data, we examined three characteristics of adolescents' social relationships: (1) social isolation; (2) degree of connectedness; and (3) social status. Sexual minority youths, particularly females, were more isolated, less connected, and had lower social status in peer networks than opposite-sex attracted youths. Among sexual minority male (but not female) youths, greater isolation as well as lower connectedness and status within a network were associated with greater depressive symptoms. Moreover, greater isolation in social networks partially explained the association between sexual minority status and depressive symptoms among males. Finally, a significant 3-way interaction indicated that the association between social isolation and depression was stronger for sexual minority male youths than non-minority youths and sexual minority females. These results suggest that the social networks in which sexual minority male youths are embedded may confer risk for depressive symptoms, underscoring the importance of considering peer networks in both research and interventions targeting sexual minority male adolescents.

Suggested Citation

  • Hatzenbuehler, Mark L. & McLaughlin, Katie A. & Xuan, Ziming, 2012. "Social networks and risk for depressive symptoms in a national sample of sexual minority youth," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(7), pages 1184-1191.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:7:p:1184-1191
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.05.030

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2004:94:1:89-95_8 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Kim, Harris Hyun-Soo, 2015. "School context, friendship ties and adolescent mental health: A multilevel analysis of the Korean Youth Panel Survey (KYPS)," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 209-216.
    2. Francisco Perales, 2016. "The Costs of Being “Different”: Sexual Identity and Subjective Wellbeing over the Life Course," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 127(2), pages 827-849, June.
    3. repec:spr:demogr:v:54:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s13524-017-0589-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Pachucki, Mark C. & Ozer, Emily J. & Barrat, Alain & Cattuto, Ciro, 2015. "Mental health and social networks in early adolescence: A dynamic study of objectively-measured social interaction behaviors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 40-50.


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