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Social Networks

Cultural Differences In Social Networks

Ethnicity, race, and culture have also been shown to shape social network ties. Network characteristics such as network size, composition, frequency of contact, and interconnectedness among members have been found to differ for people from different ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds. However, overall research findings in this area tend to be inconsistent. Recent studies compare the social networks of minority populations with those of Caucasians with little attention given to comparisons across a variety of ethnic or cultural groups.

In his overview of the features of social networks of people in the United States, Peter Mardsen (1987) found that whites had the largest networks, Hispanics had intermediate-sized networks, and African Americans had the smallest networks. This study also found that African Americans had a smaller proportion of kin and less gender diversity in their networks than white respondents.

Other studies support the findings that African-American social networks tend to be smaller than those of whites or other non-European groups (Pugliesi and Shook 1998). However, some research has shown that African Americans have more kin members in their networks and that their networks often include members from church and religious communities (Ajrouch, Antonucci, and Janevic 2001; Kim and McKenry 1998; Roschelle 1997). It may be that differences in assessing social network ties account for some of the inconsistent findings.

There is evidence to suggest that Hispanics have highly interconnected networks that include kin and friends and have strong church and school ties (Wilkinson 1993). For example, Thomas Schweizer and his colleagues (1998) found that both Euro-American and Hispanic participants had networks that were homogenous with regard to ethnicity. In addition, when compared to Euro-American networks, the networks of Hispanic participants were dominated by family ties, with most kin members living in the same neighborhood.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesSocial Networks - Defining Social Networks, Social Network Structure: Relationship Opportunities And Constraints, Gender Differences In Social Networks