Methodological issues in comparative network research
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Methodological Issues in Comparative Network Research. Tina Kogov šek and Valentina Hlebec University of Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences. The research problem.

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Methodological Issues in Comparative Network Research

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Methodological issues in comparative network research

Methodological Issues in Comparative Network Research

Tina Kogovšek and Valentina Hlebec

University of Ljubljana

Faculty of Social Sciences


The research problem

The research problem

Comparison of social networks as sources of social support over time. Comparison of social support networks of the residents of Slovenia before and after the transition (1991).

However, to be able to do that, measurement instruments have to be as similar as possible.


The research problem1

The research problem

The differences in measurement instruments

network composition (% of women, kin, friends etc.) and other tie and network characteristics


Methodological issues in comparative network research

Data

The 1987 study (Faculty of Social Sciences)

a representative sample of 289 residents of Slovenia

The 2002 study (Center for Methodology and Informatics, Faculty of Social Sciences and Social Protection Institute of the RS)

a representative sample of 5013 residents of Slovenia


Measurement approaches

Measurement approaches

  • Name generator approach (NG)

    Who are the people, with whom you discuss important personal matters? names

  • Role relationship approach (RR)

    Who are the people, with whom you discuss important personal matters? Who do you turn to first for help? Who do you turn to second? role relations (partner, father, mother, sister, friend...)


Measured social support dimensions

Measured social support dimensions


The burt name generator 1987

The Burt name generator (1987)

From time to time, most people discuss important personal matters with other people.Looking back over the last six months, who are the people with whom you discussed an important personal matter? Please just tell me their first names or initials.


The burt name generator 2002

The Burt name generator (2002)

From time to time, most people discuss important personal matters with other people, for instance, if they quarrel with someone, when they have problems at their work, family problems or similar. Who are the people with whom you discuss personal matters that are important to you?


The burt name generator

The Burt name generator

Differences:

1. Question wording:

  • Actual (last six months, 1987) vs. usual (2002) support,

  • Cues in 2002; prompting for additional persons in 1987;

    2. Data collected on first 5 alters (1987) vs. all alters (2002).


The burt name generator1

The Burt name generator

1987: relatively diverse networks (kin,

friends, neighbors, co-workers); slightly larger networks;

2002: strongly kin, partner and friend oriented networks; few weak ties.


2002 comparison of 6 networks

2002 – comparison of 6+ networks (%)


Methodological issues in comparative network research

Data

The 2004 study (Faculty of Social Sciences)

a convenience sample of 170 persons (34 students of the Social Network Analysis course – each student interviewed 4 additional persons, controlled to some degree by age and gender).


Question wording 2004

Question Wording - 2004


The burt name generator2

The Burt name generator

It seems the tested methodological factors do not have a major effect on the composition of discussion networks – why?:

  • small networks (10% or less larger than 5);

  • stable over time; important, close alters;

  • 6 month is a large time limit.


Other types of support

Other types of support

Differences:

- name generator vs. role ralationship approach;

- hypothetical (1987) vs. usual providers (2002):


Support in the case of an illness

Support in the case of an illness

1987: Suppose you had the flu and you had to stay in bed for a few days and needed help around the home, with shopping and such.

Who would you turn to first for help?

Who would you turn to second?

2002: Suppose you become seriously ill or you are generally very weak and cannot leave home, for instance to do the shopping or fetch medicine in the pharmacy. Who are the people you usually ask for this kind of help?


Financial support

Financial support

1987: Suppose you needed to borrow a large sum of money.

Who would you turn to first for help?

Who would you turn to second?

2002: Suppose you would find yourself in a situation, when you would need a larger sum of money, but not have it yourself at the moment, for instance five average monthly wages (approximately 500.000 tolars). Whom would you ask to lend you the money (a person, not an institution, e.g. a bank)?


Other types of support 2004

Other types of support - 2004

No significant differences found for: financial support, support in the case of sadness/depression and advice.

Significant differences found for: material support and support in the case of an illness (second provider) and discussing problems with partner (both providers)


Role relationship

Role Relationship

The explanation of differences:

  • Different types of support are provided by different persons (varying in the degree of closeness, importance, intensity...);

  • Difference between the first and the second provider;

  • Troubles with partner – put to respondents who had/had not a partner at the time.


Role relationship1

Role Relationship

- some types of support provisions (e.g., financial support, support in the case of depression, advice) are provided by strong ties and those are few  are named regardless of hypothetical/actual support question wording;


Role relationship2

Role Relationship

  • differences for the second provider (e.g., illness):

    • There is more than one support provider  respondents vary their answers depending on the last few occassions (e.g., partner, friend);

    • Respondents are “cognitive misers”, who search for the first satisfying, rather than optimal answer (hypothetical wording may be stimulating satisficing, where support providers are interchangeable);


Role relationship3

Role Relationship

- differences for both providers (e.g., troubles with partner): people who do not have a partner, take the question “lightly” and give a more satisficing answer in the hypothetical wording; respondents with partner may not turn to satisficing as frequently; when actual support is evaluated, different response categories may be used, depending on the actual situations.


Conclusions

Conclusions

  • For more accurate, detailed information on composition and structure of the support network, better use the name generator approach (however, it is more costly and time consuming).

  • The Burt name generator seems relatively insensitive to the tested differences in wording (6 month time limit; limitation on the number of alters; actual/usual support).


Conclusions1

Conclusions

  • Role relationship seems to be sensitive to wording (usual/hypothetical) – with support types, where the number of support providers is large and they are interchangeable.

  • However, this approach is cheaper, less time consuming and easier to administer.


Role relationship 2004

Role Relationship - 2004


Role relationship 20041

Role Relationship - 2004


Role relationship 20042

Role Relationship - 2004


Role relationship4

Role Relationship


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