Social Ties and Networking
As described in the introductory chapter, a purpose of this inquiry is to determine the applicability of social network theory to the search for help. As I discussed earlier, the five concepts of the theory are: 1) structural attributes (size of the network); 2) homogeneity (whether the network is comprised of primary or secondary members); 3) density (the frequency with which members are in contact); 4) content (resources exchanged); and 5) dispersion (degree of proximity of members). It was anticipated that a study of this sort, in which the respondents shared a number of common attributes, such as age, sex, and socio-economic characteristics, would provide a good opportunity for an in-depth examination of the theory.
The examination of structural attributes revealed that the women experienced a support system but for the most part these systems were extremely small. The fact that the women lived in a housing arrangement for older adults increased their opportunities to meet other residents, thereby fulfilling an essential condition for networking. However, the respondents reported that it took a long time to build true friendships and they did not view themselves as having that amount of time. In addition, people whom the residents might wish to have as friends were subject to leaving Garden Towers to live with relatives, to being forced to live in a nursing home, or dying.
However, despite these constraints on building a support system, there were instances in which the women reported having found a friend or two. A case in point is provided by Mrs. Q., a 68-year-old school dropout who has lived in Textile Town all of her life. Mrs. Q. moved to Garden Towers about three years ago at the wishes of her daughter and her doctor, who told her that she should