The company you keep: Social network characteristics and political participation disparity among adolescents and young adults Articles uri icon

publication date

  • December 2021

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 23

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1461-4448

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1461-7315


  • The role of social network characteristics in further dissipating political participation among adolescents and young adults or mobilizing them into participatory action is debatable. This study analyzes survey data from 10 Southeast European democracies to examine the influence of informational use of online media (Internet and social media) and social network characteristics on political interest–based participatory gaps among adolescents and young adults. The findings support the reinforcement thesis that politically interested individuals exploit the benefits of online media use, thereby exacerbating participation gaps between low- and high-interest groups. These gaps are further amplified in more heterogeneous networks for both adolescents and young adults. In contrast, politically interested adolescents are more likely to politically disengage within more extensive social networks and, hence, resemble politically detached young adults. Overall, the findings support the reinforcement thesis across age groups where greater network heterogeneity amplifies participatory gaps for both adolescents and young adults, but network size plays a conditional role for adolescents.


  • adolescents; network heterogeneity; network size; political interest; political participation; young adults