Session #7 – Exploring Network Mechanisms in Lives

Race, Daily Family Support Exchanges, and Well-Being: A Daily Examination of Linked Lives

David M. Almeida
Penn State University

Kelly E. Cichy
Kent State University

This study contributes to research on race and social networks by exploring racial differences in the direct effects of family support exchanges on daily well-being and the extent to which family support buffers/exacerbates stressor reactivity. African Americans and European Americans aged 34 to 84 (N = 1,931) from the National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE) reported on family support exchanges (i.e., support received/support provided), daily stressors, and negative affect during 8 days of telephone interviews. On a daily basis, receiving family support was not associated with well-being, whereas providing family support was associated with compromised well-being among African Americans. As expected, receiving family support buffered reactivity to daily tensions for both races, whereas providing emotional support to family exacerbated African Americans’ reactivity to daily tensions. Together, our findings suggest that even after considering the benefits of receiving family support, providing family support takes an emotional toll on African Americans.

Paper and presentation coming soon.


Networks and Curiosity Cascades

Katherine Stovel
University of Washington

In this talk I will describe the network conditions that stimulate and sustain curiosity across the life course.  Curiosity is a fundamental driver of discovery, and yet many observers have noted an apparent lack of curiosity in the contemporary world. At a basic level, we can define curiosity as an interest in learning things, of discovering what is known and unknown, or of figuring out how things work. Curiosity often begins with an observation, followed quickly by a question, and a search for an answer. This fundamental sequence of Observation->Question->Answer may satisfy the curiosity (closing the sequence O->Q->A||), or it can lead to what I call curiosity cascades (O->Q1->A1->Q2->A2…).

Empirical investigation of the relational conditions that trigger curiosity (and curiosity cascades) incorporates both neuroscience and the comparative study of formal and informal learning environments.  This talk is situated within a research agenda that focuses on two specific topics:  the relationship between curiosity and expertise, and the impact of new information environments on the distribution and dynamics of curiosity.  A fundamental precursor to being curious is a willingness to recognize that one does not know everything; the irony is that only by acknowledging ignorance can one ask questions and learn more.  By implication, then, experts may be particularly reluctant to reveal curiosity, a conclusion that poses distinct challenges for the organization of modern universities and other institutions.  When one begins to think about how curiosity operates in a digital and informationally rich world, other questions emerge:  Does easy access to information stimulate more curiosity, or simply satisfy it? More generally, how and when does curiosity breed further curiosity? In this particular talk, I will emphasize network structures that may stimulate broad curiosity cascades, and those that stimulate deep cascades at various stages in the life course.

Paper and presentation coming soon.


Clarifying the Impact of School-Based Prevention Programs on Friendship Networks, Substance Use and Delinquency in Adolescence: The PROSPER Peers Project

Scott Gest, Mark Feinberg & D. Wayne Osgood
Penn State University

Kelly Rulison
University of North Carolina—Greensboro

The PROSPER Peers project is a multi-year longitudinal study of the impact of school-based prevention programs delivered in 6th – 7th grades on the development of friendship networks, substance use and delinquency through the high school years. Two consecutive cohorts of 6th grade youth were recruited from each of 28 participating rural communities in Pennsylvania and Iowa. Half of all communities were randomly selected to implement evidence-based prevention programs delivered to families (6th grade) and schools (7th grade). Friendship networks, substance use and delinquency were tracked through the end of high school via annual youth surveys. Initial project publications have focused on over 11,000 youth who participated in one of 5 waves of youth surveys through the end of 9th grade; ongoing analyses include annual surveys through 12th grade and an age 20 follow-up. In an early project publication we described how concepts and methods from social network analysis can strengthen our understanding of intervention program impact. Specifically, we highlighted how programs may impact structural features of peer networks (integration, cliquishness, cohesiveness) and the behavioral dynamics of networks (e.g., the influence-potential of youth displaying problem behavior). In our initial empirical analysis of program impact, we found that the PROSPER interventions reduced the degree to which network centrality was associated with problem behavior (e.g., attitudes favoring substance use, actual substance use, delinquency), indicating reduced influence-potential for youth displaying problem behavior in the PROSPER intervention schools. We have extended that work in two lines of analyses. In one line, we linked the reductions in the influence-potential of problem youth to subsequent school-level differences in rates of problem behavior. In the other line, we examined how varying patterns of participation in the family intervention across PROSPER intervention schools can illuminate how intervention effects diffuse through friendship networks. To do so, for each intervention school we developed a summary index of diffusion-potential, capturing the extent to which friendship networks were well-integrated (versus fragmented) and family intervention participants were central and broadly dispersed in the friendship network (versus marginal and highly clustered): this diffusion-potential index was predictive of greater school-level impacts on problem behavior two years later. Among youth who did not participate in the family intervention, cumulative exposure to friends who participated in the family intervention was predictive of lower rates of individual problem behavior; these effects were largely accounted for by lower rates of unsupervised time with friends and friends’ less favorable attitudes towards substance use. These empirical findings to date, plus results of stochastic actor-oriented models of relevant peer selection processes, will inform a series of planned simulation models in which we explore how interventions with varying proximal impacts may diffuse through adolescent friendship networks over time.

Paper and presentation coming soon.


Exploring Network Mechanisms Underlying Prison-Based Therapeutic Communities

Derek Kreager & Gary Zajac
Penn State University

Dana Haynie
Ohio State University

David Schaefer & Jacob Young
Arizona State University

Martin Bouchard
Simon Fraser University

A long line of sociological research links social integration to individual health benefits over the life course. It is therefore unsurprising that many treatment programs seek to leverage group cohesion and peer influence processes to promote positive behavioral change. Therapeutic Communities (TCs) are group-based residential treatment programs that have proven particularly effective at reducing drug dependence within prison contexts. Stemming from self-help programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, prison TCs prioritize “the community as method” and rely on inmate-to-inmate role-modeling, monitoring, and reinforcement to create positive identity change and increase treatment engagement. Although program evaluations demonstrate the overall effectiveness of TCs for inmate health, the peer-network processes underlying TC programming remain virtually untested.  To fill this gap, we outline a research agenda that applies theory, concepts, and methods of network science to understand prison TC processes. We conclude by demonstrating the feasibility and promise of a TC network approach by presenting preliminary findings from a cross-sectional study of a small TC (n=22) in a maximum-security men’s prison.