Neighborhood Context and Romantic Relationships: Competing Models of Adolescent Relationships in Disadvantaged Communities

David Harding, University of Michigan
Rebecca Karb, University of Michigan

Qualitative research on sexual and romantic relationships among adolescents from poor neighborhoods presents two conflicting accounts of typical adolescent relationships and how they lead to teenage pregnancy. Anderson’s “Mating Game” model (presented most recently in Code of the Street [Anderson 1999]) describes adolescent romantic and sexual behavior as a game between boys and girls. Edin and Kefalas’ (2005) “poverty of relationships” model emphasizes the meaning of parenthood for young men and women in poor neighborhoods. This paper identifies key points of disagreement in these two models, and uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to adjudicate between them. Preliminary analyses find some support for aspects of both models but suggest that the poverty of relationships model provides the most accurate account. More broadly, our results suggest the importance of romantic relationships for understanding neighborhood differences in early childbearing.

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Presented in Session 98: Neighborhood Processes