Together we have fun: native-place networks and sexual risk behaviours among Chinese male rural-urban migrants

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Abstract

Some scholars argue that the maintenance of social networks contributes to the lower prevalence of deviant behaviours and fewer adverse health effects among migrants. But others suggest that if migrants are embedded in homogeneous networks, such networks may enable the formation of a deviant subculture that promotes risk taking. Facing this dilemma, the present study investigates how native-place networks influence sexual risk behaviours (SRBs), specifically the pursuit of commercial sex and condomless sex with sex workers, for male rural-urban migrants. Using a multi-stage sample of 1,591 male rural-urban migrants from two major migrant-influx cities within China, we assessed migrants’ general friend network ties and native place networks (townsmen in migrants’ local networks) and tested their associations with SRBs. Multiple logistic regression analyses indicate that native-place network ties are associated with paying for sex (OR = 1.33, p < 0.001) and condomless sex with sex workers (OR = 1.33, p < 0.001), while general friendship network ties reduce such risks (OR = 0.74, p < 0.001; OR = 0.84, p < 0.01) even after controlling for demographic background, housing conditions, length of stay, health beliefs and behaviours, and spousal companionship. Our findings suggest that native-place networks among Chinese male rural-urban migrants are associated with SRBs because homogenous networks may serve as a platform for the emergence of a deviant subculture that promotes risk behaviours. A Virtual Abstract of this paper is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Wg20I6j8XQ.

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