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Mixed MessagesNorms and Social Control around Teen Sex and Pregnancy$
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Stefanie Mollborn

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190633271

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190633271.001.0001

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“What Are People Going to Think?”

“What Are People Going to Think?”

The Influence of Close Friends and Peers

(p.94) 4 “What Are People Going to Think?”
Mixed Messages

Stefanie Mollborn

Oxford University Press

Teenagers’ social worlds are shaped by the near-constant presence of peers. Friends’ norms about teen sex and teen pregnancy often differ from parents’. School constrains teens’ social interactions and forces them to face the same people every day, creating a potent recipe for social exclusion by peers. Because sexual activity doesn’t usually happen in public, teens can do one thing sexually and act like they’re doing another. Rumors about sexual behavior often can’t be convincingly confirmed or denied, short of visible pregnancy. Girls tend to face more social control of their sexuality than boys, including gossip and reputational threats. The sexuality norms being enforced differ greatly from place to place. Thus, interactions with close friends and peers are potentially dangerous and must be handled carefully. Sanctioning someone else by following metanorms may be the surest way to sidestep being sanctioned, and reputational aggression is a good way to gain social status.

Keywords:   norm, social control, teen sex, pregnancy, friends, peers, social interaction, social exclusion, gossip, metanorms

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