functioning (which they define as a composite of social competence and involvement in peer networks), and two distinct patterns of psychological maladjustment (internalizing and externalizing patterns). Like the Blyth and Traeger study, this study shows important age and gender differences. Interestingly, for this specially selected sample of 60 adolescents at high risk for behavioral disturbance, boys have larger networks than girls -- the opposite of the sample in the more normative Blyth and Traeger study. Both studies find that their social measures tend to be significantly, though weakly, associated with psychological measures (self-esteem in the Blyth and Traeger study, behavioral maladjustment in the Vondra and Garbarino study) for males but not for females. Blyth and Traeger point out that, for their study, some of this may be due to lack of variance: at least with respect to intimacy with a close friend, females were almost uniformly high. (It might be noted here that comparable gender differences have been found in some of the studies of the relationship of social networks to mortality rates -- see, e.g., Schoenbach et al., 1986).
The Vondra and Garbarino study, in attempting a causal analysis, serves to highlight the difficulties involved in identifying which variables in such functional models have the requisite predictive power for differentiating between the psychological outcomes of young people, and especially of young people who are at risk for psychological difficulty, as are those in this study.
Despite their other differences, both of these studies reflect the judgment that, for the study of adolescence, it is insufficient to assess only the structural parameters of networks, which were characteristic of the network studies of younger children. These investigators are interested as well in assessing the personal significance of the networks for the adolescents, expanding their measurements to include such variables as the intimacy of personal conections, and self-esteem. In so doing, they draw attention to the increased developmental capacity of adolescents and recognize their ability to take a more active role in shaping and modifying their own social networks.
Schoenbach V. J., Kaplan B. H., Fredman L., & Kleinbaum D. G. ( 1986). Social ties and mortality in Evans County, Georgia. American Journal of Epidemiology, 123, 577-591.