From Crib to College: An Overview of Studies of the Social Networks of Children, Adolescents, and College Students
Suzanne Salzinger and Muriel Hammer New York State Psychiatric Institute
John Antrobus City College of New York,C.U.N.Y.
The large issues which this book addresses may be posed as a series of simple questions about young people's social worlds. What is the nature of the child's social network -- how large is it, what is its composition and structure, how does it change over time? How do the characteristics of the child's social network affect social, cognitive, and emotional development? And, critically, what are the key variables one must consider in approaching these questions?
These questions have both theoretical and practical significance. On theoretical grounds, one would expect that from the very beginning, the child's social contacts are essential components in the acquisition of social modes and orientations. Despite the expansion over several millennia of the ways in which human beings influence each other without having direct social contact -- gossip, writing, and more recently, such mass media as radio and television -- networks of direct and closely mediated indirect ties remain the most powerful sources of cultural information, social feedback and reinforcement, and values. This is true throughout life but must be even more strongly true early in life, when all of the child's social knowledge and skills are being developed, in partial imitation of and in direct response to the people immediately around the child. These direct links are initially the only routes of social transmission; the structure of these sets of links, and the way they fit into the larger networks in which they in turn are embedded, must affect the nature and adequacy of the process of social transmission.