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Computational Approaches to Studying the Co-evolution of Networks and Behavior in Social Dilemmas by Rense Corten

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5

Alcohol use among adolescents as a coordination problem in a dynamic network*

5.1 Introduction

In this chapter we once again set out to test the theoretical model on coordination in dynamic networks formulated in Chapter 2 with empirical data. However, the approach this time is entirely different from the previous chapter. Instead of testing hypotheses using controlled but abstract laboratory experiments, we now take the model “into the field” and test hypotheses in a natural social setting. Specifically, we study alcohol usage by young adolescents, assuming that the social dynamics of alcohol use resemble a coordination game. The dynamic networks from the model are in this case friendship networks in Dutch high schools.

Aside from the difference in the level of abstraction, the theoretical approach in this chapter is also different from the previous chapter in that we focus only on hypotheses on the macro-level, in this case, the level of school classes, and not so much on the details of individual behavior, which we studied in Chapter 4. Before we go into the specifics of deriving such hypotheses, we first briefly introduce the relevance of the topic of adolescent substance abuse.

Adolescence is a life stage in which many forms of problematic behavior reach their peak (Steinberg and Morris 2001), including delinquency and substance abuse. Even though there is little evidence that problematic behavior in adulthood originates from behavior during adolescence (Moffitt 1993), ...

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