Network Selection and Influence Effects on Child and Adolescent Internalizing Behaviors: A Systematic Review

Jennifer Watling Neal, René Veenstra


BACKGROUND: Internalizing behaviors (e.g., depression, anxiety, loneliness) and peer victimization commonly begin during childhood and adolescence, and can lead to increased mental health problems, substance use, workplace problems, and negative interpersonal relationships in adulthood. Peer networks, particularly those in school settings, have been considered as both consequences and determinants of childhood and adolescent internalizing behaviors and peer victimization. In particular, internalizing behaviors can shape peer relationships through peer selection, or peer relationships can shape internalizing behaviors through peer influence. This presentation will highlight the results from a systematic review of 21 empirical articles using stochastic actor oriented models to understand peer selection and influence effects on internalizing behaviors in childhood and adolescence. We will address the following research questions: (1) To what extent does the literature provide evidence of the role of internalizing behaviors and peer victimization in peer selection? and (2) To what extent does the literature provide evidence of the role of peer influence in the development of internalizing behaviors and peer victimization? METHOD: Articles were drawn from two Google Scholar searches using key words designed to capture research that (1) used a network model, (2) examined an internalizing behavior (e.g., depression, anxiety, social withdrawal) or peer victimization, and (3) were published between 1999 and June 2019. These initial searches yielded 1335 initial articles. We screened article abstracts for inclusion criteria, resulting in 223 articles. After screening the entire text of these 223 articles, we identified 21 papers that used stochastic actor oriented modeling to examine selection and/or influence effects on internalizing behaviors (e.g., depression, social anxiety) or peer victimization. RESULTS: The articles in this systematic review estimated peer selection and influence effects on a wide range of internalizing behaviors. 71.4% of the articles examined depression, 19% examined social anxiety, 14.3% examined other internalizing behaviors (e.g. loneliness), and 23.8% examined peer victimization. Of the 21 influence effects estimated across the studies, 12 (57.1%) reached statistical significance. However, of the 32 selection effects estimated across the studies, only 10 (32.3%) reached statistical significance. DISCUSSION: Results of the systematic review suggest more support for peer influence than peer selection in childhood and adolescent internalizing behaviors. Children and adolescents may engage in co-rumination or discussion about negative affect that drive these influence effects. In the presentation, we will discuss the implications of these results as well as variation in findings across different types of internalizing behaviors, study contexts (i.e., country, age of participants) and methodological decisions (e.g., network boundary, measurement of relationships; measurement of behavior).

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