SOCIAL NETWORK INFLUENCE ON DISTRACTED DRIVING BEHAVIORS: THE ROLE OF PROXIMAL AND DISTAL SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS ON TEXTING WHILE DRIVING
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Texting while driving (TWD) continues to be a prevalent issue among emerging adults, with approximately 51.4% of people ages 16-19 and 45.1% of people ages 20-24 stating they had sent text messages while driving during the last 30 days. Social Norms Theory suggests that individuals are influenced by perceptions of how their social groups act; however, a gap in the literature persists for what degree different types of social relationships influence TWD.
This dissertation included two distinct, but interrelated studies using multiple methodologies to explore if different types of relationships impact TWD among emerging adults. Study 1 was a secondary data analysis utilizing National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NEXT Generation Health Study data. The objectives of this study were two-fold: Aim 1: To assess the static and prospective relationships between peer-reported (W4 and W6) TWD on emerging adult (W6) TWD; Aim 2: To examine this association of TWD after characterizing the type of social relationship (proximal vs. distal) of nominated peers at W4 and W6. Study 2 utilized focus groups to explore whether specific social relationship types influence college students’ TWD, and distinguish whether these types of relationships impact how prevention messages are received, and whether these relationships should be included in message content to inform prevention interventions (Aim 3).
Findings from Study 1, aim 1 showed participants whose W4 peers were non-texters had greater odds of being non-texters at W6. Aim 2 results indicated participants with W4 proximal peers and W6 distal peers who were non-texters had greater odds of being non-texters at W6. Findings from Study 2 revealed that both proximal and distal peers influence participants TWD, and messaging strategies should capitalize on these significant relationships to identify and create components of prevention campaign development. Emphasis was given to messaging factors such as message appeals and delivery modalities for optimal message acceptance. Participants described their preference in messages to include sympathetic and empathetic appeal. This research extends the knowledge base on the influence of social relationships on emerging adults’ TWD, and has implications for message development for prevention efforts.