The social context of early adolescents in the Global Early Adolescent Study

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Kristin Mmari, Diane Cooper, Caroline Moreau, Leah Koenig, Michelle Martinez, Eric Mafuta, Patrick Kayembe, Sara De Meyer, Kristien Michielsen, Chunyan Yu, Xiayun Zuo, Robert Wm. Blum


Purpose: This paper used data from the Global Early Adolescent Study (GEAS) to provide a descriptive analysis of how early adolescents' social environments vary by sex across diverse cultural settings. Methods: The analyses were based on baseline data among 10-14-year old adolescents living in disadvantaged urban areas in seven sites: Kinshasa (DRC), Shanghai (China), Cuenca (Ecuador), Lampung, Semarang and Denpasar (Indonesia), and Flanders (Belgium). Except in Kinshasa where face-to face interviews were used, data were collected using self-administered surveys on mobile tablets. Social environments were measured by examining factors within five main domains, including the household and family, school, peers, neighborhoods, and the media. Site-specific descriptive analyses were performed, using Chi square tests and Student T-tests to identify sex-differences in each site. Results: The majority of early adolescents lived in two-parent households, perceived their parents/guardians cared and monitored them, had at least one friend, reported high educational aspirations, and perceived their neighborhoods as safe, socially cohesive, with a high level of social control. Yet, large gender and site differences were also observed. More girls reported same-sex friends and high levels of parental monitoring, while boys were more likely to have mixed-sex friends and spend greater amounts of time with friends. Adolescents in Kinshasa and Semarang watched the most TV per day, while higher proportions of adolescents in Flanders used social media on a daily basis. Significant gender differences in media use were also observed but varied according to site. Conclusions: Understanding how social contexts differ between boys and girls across sites has relevance for how we might examine gender attitude formations and subsequent health behaviors. Given the increased attention on the importance of early adolescence for shaping gender attitudes and norms, implementing approaches that consider the differences in boys' and girls' lives may hold the most promise for creating sustained and improve change. (C) 2021 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc.

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