Friendships at school: case studies in social network analysis
AffiliationMelbourne School of Psychological Sciences
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2017 Dr. Maedeh Aboutalebi Karkavandi
This thesis examined factors that might explain friendship formation in the classroom and school setting, illustrating the use of advanced techniques of social network analysis. Specifically, the aims were to determine 1) The contribution of the teacher-student relationship —through setting the classroom climate—to the structural patterns of friendship networks of students over a school year, 2) The influence of social anxiety as an individual predisposition on how students express and perceive their friendship relationships. The first case study examined the effects of classroom climate on the structure of friendship networks of third and fourth graders (n = 46 third grade, and n = 45 fourth grade) over a school year, using network indices (Hanneman & Riddle, 2005) and Exponential Random Graph modelling (ERGM) (Robins, Pattison, Kalish, & Lusher, 2007). A supportive and positive classroom climate was found to relate to a connected friendship network, with a rather equal distribution of status among students, and the higher propensity of friendship formation for third-grade students. However, the results for fourth-grade students mostly were not significant. Overall, it seems that teacher might be more influential for the younger students where they look to the teacher to receive guidance for their friendships (Hamm & Hoffman, 2016). The second case study tested the expressed friendship networks of socially anxious adolescents from an all-girls school (overall n = 94). Additionally, this study investigated the intersections of expressed and perceived friendship networks of both non-anxious and socially anxious students, using multivariate ERGM methodology. Results indicated that socially anxious students sent fewer expressed friendship nominations than other students, although they were not different from other students in terms of popularity. There was a high level of congruence between expressed and perceived friendship ties such that students expected most of their friendship relations to be mutual. Furthermore, students exhibited a good level of accuracy in understanding of their social standing. The social partners of socially anxious adolescents, however, had a higher level of accuracy above and beyond the other students. The result suggests that social anxiety can influence how students express their friendship relations and how other students perceive their relations with them. As a whole, the studies presented in this thesis suggested that both the social environment and individual predispositions can shape the patterns of friendship formation. Two case studies showcased how the application of sophisticated social network analysis can disentangle the invisible drivers of a network structure. Both these studies implemented sophisticated social network analytical and methodological approaches which are not commonly applied in educational and developmental literature.
Keywordssocial network analysis; ERGM; friendship networks
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