the child's social environment. The social network, as defined by these dimensions, was shown to vary as a function of some important characteristics of the child such as age, sex, and SES. Thus, for example, younger children, who require more caretaking and supervision, have more adult than peer contacts. As the child grows older the network structure changes, showing a relative increase in peer contact. It is likely that the network not only reflects but also shapes the move on the part of the child of this age toward greater independence and away from a home-centered to a more schoolcentered existence.
The structure of the social network, which varies as a function of the sex of the child and the sex of peers, is a dramatic example of how sex-role socialization patterns are reflected in the number of contacts and amount of contact with same-sex peers compared to opposite-sex peers. One can argue that cultural rules and conformity to these rules are established and maintained not only through direct reinforcement of role-appropriate behavior but also by network composition. As Rheingold and Cook ( 1975) pointed out, parents' provision of "sex-typed" toys in the home may be an important socialization factor independent of any direct reinforcement pattern. Just as parents structure the home environment (e.g., by providing sex-typed toys), so do they and other members of society structure the social network to encourage the development of appropriate behavior patterns. Understanding and describing the social network of the child becomes critical once we are prepared to consider how network composition, in addition to parent -- child relationships, constrains and shapes the child's development.
This paper was supported by a grant from the W. T. Grant Foundation. Special thanks to John Jaskir for data analysis.
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