Looking at the network of sexual relationships among Jefferson High School students (which I mentioned last time), it doesn't take a PhD to see that these kids spend plenty of time away from their spreadsheets:
No matter how liberal I am, surely my desire for public health must respond to the above network. Measures of connectivity and centrality impel me to have a talk with the "key players" of the sex network. Their reproductive health (and the health of many of their classmates) depends on it. Yes?
Actually, no. This teenage sex network does make a great emotional appeal: hire a network analyst so that you can target key players in your advocacy campaign. However, the central point made by authors of the above map, over the course of 40 pages, is exactly the opposite:
"Epidemiologists, unable to observe or measure directly the structure of sexual networks, have tended to latch onto a single idea: specifically, the idea that the number of partners matters for STD diffusion dynamics.... Our data suggest that a shift in social policy toward comprehensive STD education for all adolescents, not just those at highest risk, would be significantly more effective than current intervention models."In other words, when it comes to teenage sex, don't waste any time targeting key players in the network. The teenage sex network, by its very nature, tends to connect in a way that makes the very notion of "key player" irrelevant. So concludes the paper "Chains of Affection" by Bearman, Moody, and Stovel.
Not all networks connect in this way. Sometimes it does pay to hire a network analyst and target key players in your advocacy campaign. Specifically, if Bob and Alice complete the partner-swap we see here (and others do likewise), then my services are definitely called for.
Kids turn out to be better than adults at avoiding these sorts of messes.
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