You Can’t Always Get What You Want: Structural Determinants of Compromised Ideals in Intimate Behavior

Rachel Behler, Cornell University

Despite widespread interest in the link between social and sexual networks, little research has focused on how social networks influence the progression of intimate relationships. I argue that social networks not only affect exposure to potential partners, they also shape access to information about others’ expectations regarding the progression of intimate acts within a relationship. Using data from Add Health, I conduct an optimal matching comparison of adolescents’ purported ideal versus actual relationship sequences – which are comprised of events such as holding hands and having sex. Low discrepancy scores indicate that intimate acts in one’s relationship were sequenced close to what one would have hoped, and vice versa. Results demonstrate how students were situated within their schools’ broader friendship networks affected their experiences with intimacy. More central individuals compromised their ideals to a lesser extent than less central individuals. In addition, the degree of sex segregation within the network is associated with greater compromise.

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Presented in Session 203: Romantic Relationships in Adolescence and Young Adulthood