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RESEARCHERS MAP THE SEXUAL NETWORK OF AN ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL
researchnews.osu.edu ^ | Jeff Grabmeier

Posted on 01/24/2005 10:01:51 PM PST by paltz

COLUMBUS, Ohio - For the first time, sociologists have mapped the romantic and sexual relationships of an entire high school over 18 months, providing evidence that these adolescent networks may be structured differently than researchers previously thought.

James Moody

The results showed that, unlike many adult networks, there was no core group of very sexually active people at the high school. There were not many students who had many partners and who provided links to the rest of the community.

Instead, the romantic and sexual network at the school created long chains of connections that spread out through the community, with few places where students directly shared the same partners with each other. But they were indirectly linked, partner to partner to partner. One component of the network linked 288 students - more than half of those who were romantically active at the school - in one long chain. (See figure for a representation of the network.)

James Moody, co-author of the study and professor of sociology at Ohio State University, said this network could be compared to rural phone lines, running from a long main trunk line to individual houses. As a comparison, many adult sexual networks are more like an airline hub system where many points are connected to a small number of hubs.


While many students were connected to much larger networks, they probably didn’t see it that way, Moody said. In fact, they probably had no idea of their connections to the network. “Many of the students only had one partner. They certainly weren’t being promiscuous. But they couldn’t see all the way down the chain.”


“We went into this study believing we would find a core model, with a small group of people who are sexually active,” Moody said. “We were surprised to find a very different kind of network.”

The results have implications for designing policies to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents, he said.

The study was conducted by Peter Bearman of Columbia University, Moody, and Katherine Stovel of the University of Washington. The results were published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Sociology.

The researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. As part of that study in 1995, researchers interviewed nearly all students at an unidentified Midwestern school that they renamed “Jefferson High School.” It is an almost all-white school, and is the only public high school in this mid-sized city, which is more than an hour away from the nearest metropolitan area.

Researchers interviewed 832 of the approximately 1,000 students at the school. Students were asked to identify their sexual and romantic partners in the past 18 months from a roster of other students attending their school. (Romantic relationships were ones in which the students named the other as a romantic partner. Non-romantic sexual partners were those in which the participants said they had sexual intercourse, but were not dating).

Slightly more than half of all students reported having sexual intercourse, a rate comparable to the national average. The researchers mapped the network structure of the 573 students involved in a romantic or sexual relationship.

Moody said the results generate a snapshot of the network of romantic and sexual relations among teens attending the school in this 18-month period -- the first such image of an entire population such as this.

The most striking feature of the network was a single component that connected 52 percent (288) of the romantically involved students at Jefferson. This means student A had relations with student B, who had relations with student C and so on, connecting all 288 of these students.

While this component is large, it has numerous short branches and is very broad - the two most distant individuals are 37 steps apart. (Or to use a currently popular term, there were 37 degrees of separation between the two most-distant students.)

“From a student’s perspective, a large chain like this would boggle the mind,” Moody said. “They might know that their partner had a previous partner. But they don’t think about the fact that this partner had a previous partner, who had a partner, and so on.

“What this shows, for the first time, is that there are many of these links in a chain, going far beyond what anyone could see and hold in their head.”

Outside of this large component, there were numerous other smaller components in the network at Jefferson High. There were 63 simple pairs - two individuals whose only partnership was with each other.
All told, only 35 percent of the romantically active students (189) were involved in networks containing three or fewer students. There were very few components of intermediate size (4 to 15) students.

While many students were connected to much larger networks, they probably didn’t see it that way, Moody said. In fact, they probably had no idea of their connections to the network.

“Many of the students only had one partner. They certainly weren’t being promiscuous. But they couldn’t see all the way down the chain.”

The surprising thing about the network at Jefferson High was the near absence of cycling -- situations in which people have relationships with others close to them on the network, Moody said.

The lack of cycling seems traceable to rules that adolescents have about who they will not date. The teens will not date (from a female perspective) one’s old boyfriend’s current girlfriend’s old boyfriend. This would be considered taking “seconds” in a relationship.

“If you break up with someone, you may want to get as away from them as possible in your next relationship. You don’t want to be connected to them in some way by dating someone with a close relationship,” Moody said.

The practical result from such a rule is that no cores form, and that long, chain-like networks form instead. That has important implications for preventing the spread of STDs in teenage populations, according to Moody, Bearman and Stovel.

In adult populations, in which there are cores of sexually active people who are the main conduits of disease, you can focus education and other efforts to this select group.

But in the case of adolescents, “there aren’t any hubs to target, so you have to focus on broad-based interventions,” Moody said. “You can’t just focus on a small group.”

This also means it matters less which people you reach with your efforts. Networks such as the one seen in Jefferson High are extremely fragile and just breaking one link in the chain - any link - will stop that part of the network from spreading any further. If enough links are broken, the spread of STDs can be radically limited.

“The students in this network are not unusual. They are just average students, and not extremely active sexually. So social policies that could help some of them protect themselves from STDs could break a lot of these chains that can lead to the spread of disease.”

#

Contact: James Moody, (614) 292-1722; Moody.77@osu.edu

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457; Grabmeier.1@osu.edu


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: education; educationnews; healthcare; promiscuity; study; teens
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1 posted on 01/24/2005 10:01:53 PM PST by paltz
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Comment #2 Removed by Moderator

To: paltz

Based entirely on the assumption that the kids are going to be totally honest in their answers.


3 posted on 01/24/2005 10:04:54 PM PST by Kirkwood
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To: paltz

6-Degrees of Kevin Bacon by academia


4 posted on 01/24/2005 10:05:57 PM PST by stainlessbanner (Southern powder and Southern steel)
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To: Kirkwood

"Based entirely on the assumption that the kids are going to be totally honest in their answers."

Amen. This here is called I have nothing else to study.


5 posted on 01/24/2005 10:06:08 PM PST by writer33 (The U.S. Constitution defines a conservative.)
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To: paltz

Your tax dollars at work. This sounds less like research than it does an episode of a WB drama.


6 posted on 01/24/2005 10:06:09 PM PST by denydenydeny
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To: paltz

Fascinating article. One thought I had on reading it though was wondering to what degree all these high school students were truthful about their sexual exploits. To a first approximation (and I could be way off here) I would expect the boys to "pad" their resume and perhaps the girls to underreport same. But then again, who knows these days?


7 posted on 01/24/2005 10:06:26 PM PST by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: paltz

Oh for goodness sakes! This is pathetic! Not only are your kids being handed condoms at school, but now their "mating habits" are being studied like rats in a cage. Whoever headed this study should be sent to Philadelphia with "Go PATS" tatooed on their forehead.


8 posted on 01/24/2005 10:11:37 PM PST by advance_copy
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To: paltz
The researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

Let me get this straight: my tax dollars can go to support some useless research by some brainiacs yet the cure to stop rampant sexual disease spreading in high schools, Bible study, is banned? I'm so tired of the liberals and their buddies in the MSM.
9 posted on 01/24/2005 10:12:49 PM PST by rhtwngwarrior
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To: paltz
It is disgusting that high school kids even have networks of sexual relations. Eighty years ago this was not the case: some of the boys might have lost their virginity but the vast majority of girls had not. And are we, as a result of the change, happier as a society? I don't think so. The carefully nonjudgemental manner in which the article is written, cleansed of any moral reference, gives tacit approval to all this. And then we are surprised at the epidemic of abortions and STDs.
10 posted on 01/24/2005 10:19:44 PM PST by Capriole (the Luddite hypocritically clicking away on her computer)
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To: Kirkwood
Based entirely on the assumption that the kids are going to be totally honest in their answers.

Yeah, I wonder what percentage of males lost their virginity at age eleven to a really hot babysitter? According to most my friends in high school, I was about the only guy who didn't...
11 posted on 01/24/2005 10:21:34 PM PST by Welsh Rabbit
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Comment #12 Removed by Moderator

To: paltz

In highschool I was highly networked...with my left hand. ;-)


13 posted on 01/24/2005 10:22:22 PM PST by Avenger
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To: paltz

14 posted on 01/24/2005 10:22:56 PM PST by Plutarch
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To: Welsh Rabbit

You were.


15 posted on 01/24/2005 10:23:28 PM PST by null and void (Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons and necking in the park!)
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To: paltz
(See figure for a representation of the network.)

No wonder I didn't get any in High School...

16 posted on 01/24/2005 10:25:00 PM PST by Drango (To Serve Man.....IT'S A COOKBOOK!)
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To: paltz
This will lead to micro managing high school relationships. I'm sure the wackos will find a 'good use' for this study but damn, is there anything sacred anymore ?
17 posted on 01/24/2005 10:25:42 PM PST by John Lenin (You have to be a lunatic yourself to appeal to the RAT base)
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To: paltz
The figure:


18 posted on 01/24/2005 10:26:05 PM PST by null and void (Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons and necking in the park!)
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To: null and void; Plutarch

LoL...I posted it second but Plutarch beat us both!


19 posted on 01/24/2005 10:28:14 PM PST by Drango (To Serve Man.....IT'S A COOKBOOK!)
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To: null and void
OoooooKAY. I think that's quite enough copies of the figure.

I note only one homosexual and one lesbian pairing.
20 posted on 01/24/2005 10:28:20 PM PST by null and void (Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons and necking in the park!)
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To: Plutarch
The description of that large constellation:

The most striking feature of the network was a single component that connected 52 percent (288) of the romantically involved students at Jefferson. This means student A had relations with student B, who had relations with student C and so on, connecting all 288 of these students.

While this component is large, it has numerous short branches and is very broad – the two most distant individuals are 37 steps apart. (Or to use a currently popular term, there were 37 degrees of separation between the two most-distant students.)

“From a student’s perspective, a large chain like this would boggle the mind,” Moody said. “They might know that their partner had a previous partner. But they don’t think about the fact that this partner had a previous partner, who had a partner, and so on.

“What this shows, for the first time, is that there are many of these links in a chain, going far beyond what anyone could see and hold in their head.”

That "striking feature" must be something recognizable in high school culture. The jock/cheerleader nexus?

21 posted on 01/24/2005 10:28:37 PM PST by Plutarch
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To: null and void

gee, I wonder who the popular kids were in this diagram /sarcasm


22 posted on 01/24/2005 10:28:58 PM PST by paltz
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Comment #23 Removed by Moderator

To: paltz

Hell, all this time, and I thought kids went to school to learn Math, Reading, and Government.

No wonder there is a dumming down of Americans.


24 posted on 01/24/2005 10:29:37 PM PST by standing united (The second amendment does not stand for the right to hunt, but to over throw a corrupt Gov.)
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
To a first approximation (and I could be way off here) I would expect the boys to "pad" their resume and perhaps the girls to underreport same.

Yep. It's called the "rule of 3". For guys, divide their stated number of sex partners by 3 to get the truth. For women, multiply by the same.

25 posted on 01/24/2005 10:29:50 PM PST by Tree of Liberty (requiescat in pace, President Reagan)
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To: null and void
one lesbian pairing.

I'm going blind....where are the two pinks doing the nasty?

26 posted on 01/24/2005 10:30:44 PM PST by Drango (To Serve Man.....IT'S A COOKBOOK!)
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To: null and void

What is very striking is that most of the sexual relations in a high school can be encapsulated in one large network. Not many individual kids had more htan a couple of partners but it does spread down the network. No wonder STDs are so prevalent.


27 posted on 01/24/2005 10:30:56 PM PST by Nataku X (You've heard, "Be more like Jesus." But have you ever heard, "Be more like Mohammad"?)
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To: Nataku X

Most high-school sex is with a Teacher!


28 posted on 01/24/2005 10:32:30 PM PST by standing united (The second amendment does not stand for the right to hunt, but to over throw a corrupt Gov.)
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To: Nataku X

I want to see the study done at the homosexual high school in New York. Want to be our eyes pop out when we see that one ?


29 posted on 01/24/2005 10:32:32 PM PST by John Lenin (You have to be a lunatic yourself to appeal to the RAT base)
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To: Drango
I'm going blind....where are the two pinks doing the nasty?

We told you you would if you kept that up!

Their top row second figure from the right....

30 posted on 01/24/2005 10:33:11 PM PST by null and void (Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons and necking in the park!)
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want to bet


31 posted on 01/24/2005 10:33:22 PM PST by John Lenin (You have to be a lunatic yourself to appeal to the RAT base)
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To: Drango

Where's the single blue dot with the girly mags hidden under his mattress?


32 posted on 01/24/2005 10:34:00 PM PST by Avenger
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To: null and void

I see 2 homosexual pairings but no lesbian ones...


33 posted on 01/24/2005 10:34:16 PM PST by Nataku X (You've heard, "Be more like Jesus." But have you ever heard, "Be more like Mohammad"?)
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To: null and void
I note only one homosexual and one lesbian pairing.

Four out of 573 is 0.69%, and they weren't even exclusively homosexual. So much for the 10% figure.

34 posted on 01/24/2005 10:34:36 PM PST by general_re (How come so many of the VKs have been here six months or less?)
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To: null and void

Their=They're

*sigh*


35 posted on 01/24/2005 10:34:38 PM PST by null and void (Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons and necking in the park!)
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To: John Lenin

I was once a lonely blue dot


36 posted on 01/24/2005 10:35:01 PM PST by woofie (Proudly posting inane comments since 1998)
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To: null and void

Interesting...the bisexulity is right there.


37 posted on 01/24/2005 10:35:04 PM PST by paltz
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Comment #38 Removed by Moderator

To: Capriole
"Eighty years ago this was not the case: some of the boys might have lost their virginity but the vast majority of girls had not. "

Really? I don't think that pure time ever existed.

39 posted on 01/24/2005 10:35:19 PM PST by patton (Genesis 3:16)
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To: general_re

They hadn't been recruited. Yet.


40 posted on 01/24/2005 10:35:37 PM PST by null and void (Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons and necking in the park!)
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To: John Lenin

ewwww!


41 posted on 01/24/2005 10:36:15 PM PST by Nataku X (You've heard, "Be more like Jesus." But have you ever heard, "Be more like Mohammad"?)
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To: ftlpdx


did anyone notice this one...
42 posted on 01/24/2005 10:36:30 PM PST by Citizen James (Well done is better than well said. - B. Franklin)
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To: Nataku X; null and void

Okay, spotted the second male-male coupling. The female-female one is in the upper right corner, second figure from the right. So that's six out of 573 - we're up to 1%.


43 posted on 01/24/2005 10:37:34 PM PST by general_re (How come so many of the VKs have been here six months or less?)
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To: woofie

I lived on the border of two cities and dated a few girls from other schools, wonder how they would take that into account.


44 posted on 01/24/2005 10:37:39 PM PST by John Lenin (You have to be a lunatic yourself to appeal to the RAT base)
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To: null and void

I notice the bottom right figure is 6 numbers short....</rimshot>


45 posted on 01/24/2005 10:37:54 PM PST by Drango (To Serve Man.....IT'S A COOKBOOK!)
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To: Nataku X

Right. I missed one.


46 posted on 01/24/2005 10:38:06 PM PST by null and void (Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons and necking in the park!)
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To: Citizen James

of course--and there's another gay pairing near the one you marked--look for the guy who's having 8 girls, 1 boy to the left


47 posted on 01/24/2005 10:39:06 PM PST by Nataku X (You've heard, "Be more like Jesus." But have you ever heard, "Be more like Mohammad"?)
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To: null and void

I dunno. This data is from 1995 - maybe the PFLAG clubs and whatever didn't exist in that school back then. Be interesting to look at the same school again today.


48 posted on 01/24/2005 10:39:35 PM PST by general_re (How come so many of the VKs have been here six months or less?)
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To: Citizen James

And the other two?


49 posted on 01/24/2005 10:39:59 PM PST by null and void (Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons and necking in the park!)
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To: general_re

technically we're only up to 1 out of 573%--the 10% figure doesn't include bis


50 posted on 01/24/2005 10:40:22 PM PST by Nataku X (You've heard, "Be more like Jesus." But have you ever heard, "Be more like Mohammad"?)
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