Social Networks of Children, Adolescents, and College Students

By Suzanne Salzinger; John Antrobus et al. | Go to book overview
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of their psychological well-being. On the other hand, we did find that children's social network support, particularly support received from family members, was positively correlated with children's reports of positive interactions with their mothers and siblings. On a conceptual level, this interaction measure is probably the most closely linked to children's ratings of support received from family members. This correlation may be taken as an index of the validity of the network support measure. It also may be seen as the first steps in a process connecting perceived support with social interactions and well-being.

Although children's social network involvement was not associated with measures of their own psychological well-being, our data revealed that children's reports of the frequency of network support were related to their mothers' depression. Unfortunately, we cannot determine from this correlation the direction of the possible effect. Thus, it may be the case that mothers who are depressed fail to provide avenues through which their children can garner social support, such as taking their children on outings, encouraging them to invite friends home, or modeling social network involvement. On the other hand, it may be the case that children with less network support spend more time at home and place heavier demands on their mothers, thereby draining mothers' energy or making mothers feel guilty or unhappy that they have not produced an extroverted and "popular" child. Also possible is the fact that a third variable, such as the husband and father's involvement in family life, is responsible both for women's depression symptoms and children's level of network support. Future investigators may wish to test such possibilities. On a cautionary note, we should point out that the correlation between children's network support and mothers' depression, although statistically significant, only accounts for 6% of the variance, suggesting that a number of additional factors play into children's network involvement.

Our research is limited from a methodological standpoint. At present, the field is lacking reliable and valid means for collecting information about children's social network support. We hope in our future research to examine the more qualitative features of children's social networks, by obtaining more in-depth information about children's interactions and activities with different network members. It may be that such an alternative approach would provide more clear-cut information about how children's social relationships are connected to their psychological well-being.


Beck A. T., Ward C. H., Mendelson M., Mock J. E., & Erbaugh J. ( 1961). An inventory for measuring depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 4, 561-571.

Berger M., & Foster M. ( 1976). Family interventions for retarded children: A multivariate approach to issues and strategies. Multivariate Experimental Clinical Research, 2, 1-21.


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