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

J Res Adolesc. 2012 Dec 1;22(4):646-661. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-7795.2012.00812.x. Epub 2012 Jun 8.


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 pre-existing characteristics.