Peter Bearman, PhD
Co-Director of Columbias Health & Society Scholars Program
Professor, Department of Sociology; Director, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy Columbia University

The Structure of Adolescent Sexual Networks

December 1, 2006
12:00-1:30 PM
Colonial Penn Center Auditorium

Abstract Paper

Peter Bearman is Co-Director of Columbia’s Health & Society Scholars Program, director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy and the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Center for the Social Sciences at Columbia University. He has been on the faculty of Columbia University since 1998 when he joined as a professor of sociology. Since 2001 he has been the chair of the Department of Sociology at the University.

His research cuts across a number of sub-disciplines within sociology: from historical sociology, collective action, social networks, and social theory to problems in population. Among his recent publications are Relations into Rhetorics: Local Elite Social Structure in Norfolk, England: 1540–1640 (Rutgers 1993); "Adolescent Suicidality" with James Moody in American Journal of Public Health (2002); "Opposite-Sex Twins and Same-Sex Attraction" with Hannah Bruckner in American Journal of Sociology (2002); "Class Formation and Localism in an Emerging Bureaucracy: British Bank Workers, 1880–1960" with Michael Savage and Katherine Stovel in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (2001); "Promising the Future: Virginity Pledges and the Transition to First Intercourse" with Hannah Bruckner in American Journal of Sociology (2001); "Becoming a Nazi: Models for Narrative Networks" with Katherine Stovel in Poetics (2000); and many others.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Peter Bearman has also been a coinvestigator or investigator of "Narrative Networks: Oral Histories of the WTC Disaster," National Science Foundation (2001); the Health and Society Scholars Program, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2000); The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, National Institute for Child Health and Development (1994); "Adolescent Social Networks and HIV/STI Transmission," National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (1994); and many others. He has received grants and contracts from various institutions among which are the Office of Population Affairs, the National Science Foundation, the National Campaign for the Prevention of Teen Pregnancy, and the Ford Foundation among others.

Professor Bearman holds a BA from Brown University (1978) and an MA from Harvard University (1982). He earned his PhD also at Harvard in 1985. His previous teaching positions include Eric Voegelin Guest Professor at the University of Munich (1997); assistant professor, associate professor and professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (1986–97); and lecturer at Harvard University (1985–86).

This article describes the structure of the adolescent romantic and sexual network in a population of over 800 adolescents residing in a midsized town in the midwestern United States. Precise images and measures of network structure are derived from reports of relationships that occurred over a period of 18 months between 1993 and 1995. The study offers a comparison of the structural characteristics of the observed network to simulated networks conditioned on the distribution of ties; the observed structure reveals networks characterized by longer contact chains and fewer cycles than expected. This article identifies the micromechanisms that generate networks with structural features similar to the observed network. Implications for disease transmission dynamics and social policy are explored.

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