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Lack of consistency in measurement methods and semantics used for network measures in adolescent health behaviour studies using social network analysis: a systematic review
  1. Magali Collonnaz1,
  2. Laetitia Minary1,
  3. Teodora Riglea2,3,
  4. Jodi Kalubi2,3,4,
  5. Jennifer O'Loughlin2,3,
  6. Yan Kestens3,5,
  7. Nelly Agrinier1,6
  1. 1 Université de Lorraine, Inserm, INSPIIRE, Nancy, France
  2. 2 Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CRCHUM), Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  3. 3 École de Santé Publique de l'Université de Montréal, Département de médecine sociale et préventive, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  4. 4 Centre de recherche en santé publique (CReSP), Université de Montréal & CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  5. 5 Centre de Recherche en Santé Publique (CReSP), Université de Montréal (UdeM), Montréal, Québec, QC, Canada
  6. 6 CHRU-Nancy, INSERM, Université de Lorraine, CIC-EC, Epidémiologie Clinique, Nancy, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr Laetitia Minary, Université de Lorraine, Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy 54500, France; laetitia.minary{at}


Background Social network analysis (SNA) is often used to examine how social relationships influence adolescent health behaviours, but no study has documented the range of network measures used to do so. We aimed to identify network measures used in studies on adolescent health behaviours.

Methods We conducted a systematic review to identify network measures in studies investigating adolescent health behaviours with SNA. Measures were grouped into eight categories based on network concepts commonly described in the literature: popularity, position within the network, network density, similarity, nature of relationships, peer behaviours, social norms, and selection and influence mechanisms. Different subcategories were further identified. We detailed all distinct measures and the labels used to name them in included articles.

Results Out of 6686 articles screened, 201 were included. The categories most frequently investigated were peer behaviours (n=201, 100%), position within the network (n=144, 71.6%) and popularity (n=110, 54.7%). The number of measurement methods varied from 1 for ‘similarity on popularity’ (within the ‘similarity’ category) to 28 for the ‘characterisation of the relationship between the respondent and nominated peers’ (within the ‘nature of the relationships’ category). Using the examples of ‘social isolation’, ‘group membership’, ‘individuals in a central position’ (within the ‘position within the network’ category) and ‘nominations of influential peers’ (sub within the ‘popularity’ category), we illustrated the inconsistent reporting and heterogeneity in measurement methods and semantics.

Conclusion Robust methodological recommendations are needed to harmonise network measures in order to facilitate comparison across studies and optimise public health intervention based on SNA.


Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it first published. The Funding statement has been amended.

  • Contributors NA, MC and LM conceived the idea for the paper, and designed the study. MC, JK and TR selected the articles. MC and TR extracted data from included articles. MC analysed the data and wrote the first draft of the manuscript. NA and LM assisted with the writing of the manuscript. All the authors were involved in interpreting the data and revised the manuscript critically. LM acts as guarantor. All authors have approved the final version.

  • Funding This research was funded by IResP and INCa as part of the call for research and intervention projects to reduce and combat smoking (Grant IRESP-19-TABAC-V1-02).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.