The role of educational expectations, friendship networks, and moral codes in the mental health of adolescents
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This dissertation identifies structural properties at the individual, dyadic, and cultural level that generate health and social behavior disparities in the lives of adolescents and young adults. The three studies of this dissertation clarify causal mechanisms underlying sociological theories of structure and health by examining how perceptions of parental educational expectations, structural arrangements within friendship networks, and societal norms about moral codes impact individuals’ health outcome. More specifically, these studies address three specific aims: (1) to explore the extent to which perceived malleability in parental educational expectations influence the long-term socio-emotional consequences of adolescents, (2) to track and model the coevolution of adolescents’ friendship networks and their depression by studying depression homogeneity among boys and girls, and (3) to assess the role that culturally embedded moral principles play in shaping young adults’ impressions and reactions to transgression. This dissertation explores three markedly divergent conceptions of social structure: the psychological processes are principally concerned with the intrapersonal communication among selves; the network perspectives give priority to interpersonal relationships among peers; and the cultural models highlights the normative beliefs that guide social actions. Yet these different approaches to the sociological study of structure and health are complementary rather than contradictory. By taking a pluralistic structural approach, this dissertation integrates seemingly disparate literature through the studies of adolescents’ and young adults’ social relations, be it at the individual, group, or societal level; by delving into the psychological, social, and cultural challenges in the lives of adolescents and young adults, this work gains thorough understandings of the multiple pathways through which health disparities are realized.