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Transl Behav Med. 2013 Sep;3(3):312-9. doi: 10.1007/s13142-013-0227-y.

Actual versus perceived peer sexual risk behavior in online youth social networks.

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1
Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora, CO USA.

Abstract

Perception of peer behaviors is an important predictor of actual risk behaviors among youth. However, we lack understanding of peer influence through social media and of actual and perceived peer behavior concordance. The purpose of this research is to document the relationship between individual perception of and actual peer sexual risk behavior using online social networks. The data are a result of a secondary analysis of baseline self-reported and peer-reported sexual risk behavior from a cluster randomized trial including 1,029 persons from 162 virtual networks. Individuals (seeds) recruited up to three friends who then recruited additional friends, extending three waves from the seed. ANOVA models compared network means of actual participant behavior across categories of perceived behavior. Concordance varied between reported and perceived behavior, with higher concordance between perceived and reported condom use, multiple partners, concurrent partners, sexual pressure, and drug and alcohol use during sex. Individuals significantly over-reported risk and under-reported protective peer behaviors related to sex.

KEYWORDS:

Adolescents; Behavioral norms; Normative influence; Online social networks; Sexual risk behavior

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