Social network

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A social network is a set of actors and the ties between them (Wasserman & Faust, 1994). The study of the patterns of these ties is called Social Network Analysis (SNA), a field of study that has grown in recent decades across a wide range of disciplines (McCarthy et al, 2019). Through this approach, a countless number of economic and social processes can be represented and analyzed. Networks between people, groups, institutions, communities or nations, interacting to exchange information, social support, transfer money or manage conflicts, to name just a few examples (Wellman & Berkowitz, 2006). In the context of life courses, the concept of social network has often been used through the notion of 'social convoy': this is the set of personal relationships that accompany individuals through life course segments, such as family members or close friends (Antonucci et al., 2019; Bidart et al., 2020; Widmer, 2006). This puts the concept of social network to the forefront for one of the principles of the life course, such as that of 'linked lives'. Currently, scholars are working to strengthen the links between social network analysis and life course research (Alwin et al., 2019; Vacchiano & Spini, 2021)

Author: Mattia Vacchiano


Alwin, D. F., Felmlee, D. H., & Kreager, D. A. (2018). Together Through Time – Social Networks and the Life Course. In: Alwin D. Felmlee D., & Kreager D. (Eds.), Social Networks and the Life Course. Frontiers in Sociology and Social Research, vol 2, Springer, Cham.
Antonucci, T. C., Ajrouch, K. J., Webster, N. J., & Zahodne, L. B. (2019). Social relations across the life span: Scientific advances, emerging issues, and future challenges. Annual Review of Developmental Psychology, 1, 313–336.
Bidart, C., Degenne, A., & Grossetti, M. (2020). Living in networks: The dynamics of social relations. Cambridge:Cambridge University Press.
McCarty, C., Lubbers, M. J., Vacca, R., & Molina, J. L. (2019). Conducting personal network research: A practicalguide. New York: Guilford Publishers.
Vacchiano M and Spini D (2021) Networked lives. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior 51: 87–103.
Wasserman, S., & Faust, K. (1994). Social network analysis: Methods and applications. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Wellman, B., & Berkowitz, S. D. (1988). Social structures: A network approach. Cambridge. Cambridge University press.
Widmer, E. D. (2006). Who are my family members? Bridging and binding social capital in family configurations. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23(6), 979–998.

Semantic network visualisation

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