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J Adolesc Health. 2010 Oct;47(4):367-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.01.025. Epub 2010 Apr 15.

Social network influences on service use among urban, African American youth with mental health problems.

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School of Social Work, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland 21202, USA.



To examine the associations between the size and quality of African-American adolescents' social networks and their mental health service use, and to examine whether these social network characteristics moderate the association between need for services because of emotional or behavioral difficulties and use of services.


Participants were a community sample of African-American adolescents (N = 465; 46.2% female; mean age, 14.78) initially recruited in 1st grade for participation in an evaluation of two preventive intervention trials. Social network influences and adolescents' mental health service use in schools and community were accessed.


A significant positive association between adolescents' perception that their social network was helpful and their use of school mental health services was identified. The significant associations between need for services for anxiety, depression, or behavior problems, and school and outpatient service use were moderated by size of the social network. Specifically, among youth in need of services for anxiety or depression, school-based service use was higher for those with larger social networks.


Implications for enhancing access to formal mental health services include further examination of key social network influences that potentially serve as facilitators or barriers to formal help-seeking. The findings also suggest that it might be important to integrate social network members into interventions to address the mental health needs of adolescents.

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