The current study applied egocentric social network analysis (SNA) to investigate the prevalence of addictive behavior and co-occurring substance use in college students' networks. Specifically, we examined individuals' perceptions of the frequency of network members' co-occurring addictive behavior and investigated whether co-occurring addictive behavior is spread evenly throughout networks or is more localized in clusters. We also examined differences in network composition between individuals with varying levels of alcohol use.
The study utilized an egocentric SNA approach in which respondents (“egos”) enumerated 30 of their closest friends, family members, co-workers, and significant others (“alters”) and the relations among alters listed. Participants were 281 undergraduates at a large university in the Southeastern United States.
Robust associations were observed among the frequencies of gambling, smoking, drinking, and using marijuana by network members. We also found that alters tended to cluster together into two distinct groups: one cluster moderate-to-high on co-occurring addictive behavior and the other low on co-occurring addictive behavior. Lastly, significant differences were present when examining egos' perceptions of alters' substance use between the networks of at-risk, light, and nondrinkers.
These findings provide empirical evidence of distinct clustering of addictive behavior among young adults and suggest the promise of social network-based interventions for this cohort.