Blog 9: Social Network Analysis at the Community and Friend Levels

The first study investigated collaborations networks in the social work academic community using social network analysis. Their research question: have collaboration networks for scholars in the social work community changed overtime?  Their sole source of data was the Social Work Research Database which is a comprehensive collection of published social work articles.  The sample population includes scholars of social work that have published in the field (N=19,789) and these scholars compose the nodes of the network.  The links of the network represent collaboration where authors shared authorship on a research article.

Their primary conclusion is that levels of collaborations have increased significantly from 1990 to 2014, and findings were consistent with the Matthew effect.  The Matthew effect can be conceptualized using the adage, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” It has three properties: proportional growth, cumulative advantage of a few nodes, and preferential attachment to central nodes.

As figure 2 demonstrates, there was proportional growth from 1990 to 2014.  The increase in network size provides additional nodes for potentially more edges to be formed.   Figure 2 also supports preferential attachment to central nodes because dark spots more central in the network increased in size and frequency.

Table 3 clearly demonstrates cumulative advantage.  Those authors with higher degrees to start increased from 17.2 to 126.7 degrees, while authors with smaller initial degrees remained small.

Satisfaction of the Matthew effect means that most of the new collaboration in figure 1 in the scholarly social work community occurred for those already advantaged in the social work community.

Quantitative and qualitative methods of social network analysis helped operationalize the data collected in a usable form.  Quantitative measures of degree clearly demonstrated levels of collaboration for each author.  Qualitative analysis of proportional growth (figure 2) allowed us to see that there was preferential attachment to central nodes.

The second articles investigated processes of assimilation and contagion in social networks of adolescent friends.  Their research question: does assimilation and contagion affect symptoms of depression among friend?  The study obtained data from a clinical trial on substance misuse which was conducted for 19 schools in England.  The sample population includes 9-year-old students from 7 of the 19 schools (N=1,114).  The nodes represent students and the links are contagion or assimilation processes among friends.  Consistent with contagion, those adolescents with friends having greater symptoms of depression also found their personal depression symptoms increase.  Assimilation was also supported.  Adolescents were likely to see their depression symptoms change to a level similar to their friends.  The use of contagion and assimilation as tools for social network analysis allowed us to determine the transmission of depression symptoms among adolescent friends.


Markus Eckl, Christian Ghanem, Heiko Löwenstein; The Evolution of Social Work from Disconnected Groups to a Scientific Community: A Social Network Analysis, The British Journal of Social Work, , bcy050,

Doucet, C., Lacourse, E., Vitaro, F., Stewart, S. H., & Conrod, P. (2016). 6.101 DO FRIENDS MATTER FOR ADOLESCENT DEPRESSION? A LONGITUDINAL SOCIAL NETWORK ANALYSIS. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.


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