Hanging Out With Which Friends? Friendship-Level Predictors of Unstructured and Unsupervised Socializing in Adolescence


  • We thank Scott Gest, Mark Feinberg, Linda Caldwell, Nan Crouter, Reed Larson, Susan McHale, and the editors and anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions. We also thank Jim Moody for network analysis assistance and Ashley Deaton for literature review assistance. This project is supported by grants from the W.T. Grant Foundation (8316) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (RO1-DA08225). The research uses data from PROSPER, a project directed by R. L. Spoth and funded by grant RO1-DA013709 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Sonja E. Siennick, College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Florida State University, 634 West Call Street, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1127. E-mail: ssiennick@fsu.edu


Companions are central to explanations of the risky nature of unstructured and unsupervised socializing, yet we know little about whom adolescents are with when hanging out. We examine predictors of how often friendship dyads hang out via multilevel analyses of longitudinal friendship-level data on over 5,000 middle schoolers. Adolescents hang out most with their most available friends and their most generally similar friends, not with their most at-risk or similarly at-risk friends. These findings vary little by gender and wave. Together, the findings suggest that the risks of hanging out stem from the nature of hanging out as an activity, not the nature of adolescents' companions, and that hanging out is a context for friends' mutual reinforcement of preexisting characteristics.