Conducting physical activity research among racially and ethnically diverse adolescents using social network analysis: Case Studies for practical use


Adolescent physical activity (PA) is significantly impacted by peer behaviors through peer influence, peer selection, and popularity. However, the scales for these social constructs may not fully capture the detailed social networks and mechanisms responsible for PA behavior changes. This level of detail and granularity can be quantified and analyzed through social network analysis (SNA). To demonstrate the variety, utility, and efficacy of SNA in adolescent PA research, this article aims to provide four case studies on the collection of social network and PA data on ethnically and racially diverse adolescents. Through case studies, this article provides tangible ways in which SNA can be used to evaluate social influences on PA behaviors. Case studies are presented on: (1) Youth Engagement in Sport—an egocentric analysis of middle school youth participation in an experiential sport program with 3- and 6-month follow-ups; (2) Summer care program networks—an egocentric and whole network longitudinal study of adolescents at summer care programs; (3) The Convoy method—a qualitative egocentric discussion activity with adolescents from colonias on the Texas-Mexico border; and (4) A father-focused, family-centered health program—an egocentric experimental analysis of children participating in a health program. Data collection procedures are listed and example surveys are provided. Descriptive analyses are included, as are recommendations on further analysis techniques for each type of network data. Using SNA, researchers can understand social contexts in a more specific manner, better positioning interventions to alter such influences.

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health