Mother Reports of Children's Personal Networks: Antecedents, Concomitants, and Consequences
Moncrieff Cochran Cornell University
David Riley University of Wisconsin-Madison
When J. S. Barnes ( 1954) decided that the social relations of Norwegian villagers extended beyond the boundedness of groups and introduced the network concept to describe an unbounded set of social relations, he made possible a view of individuals both born into a web of preexisting social ties and at the same time capable of constructing some aspects of their own personal social worlds. This dynamic tension -- between the constraints of social structure and the social curiosity of the human organism -- underlies much of the research focused on personal social networks. One way to better understand the choices and constraints operating on individuals enmeshed in evolving network relations is to examine those relations as they exist early in these people's lives, when they are young children.
In this chapter we compare and contrast the social networks of 6-year- old children. The theoretical perspective underlying our work draws upon both family sociology and developmental psychology. Our more general interest is in the supports available to and the stresses experienced by adults in their parenting roles, and in how such supports and stresses might affect the children of those parents. Therefore the size, composition, and content of the social networks of young children are viewed both as the consequence of the socioeconomic and social resources available to their parents and as an emerging set of social relations in their own right, capable of shaping and being shaped by the child's development.