The view from two worlds: The convergence of social network reports between mental health clients and their ties

Bernice A. Pescosolido, Eric R. Wright

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    34 Scopus citations


    Traditionally, concerns with the similarities and discrepancies between the reports of persons (or focal respondents) and their collaterals (or network ties/respondents) about the former's social support network is framed as a methodological concern. As individuals experience the devastating effects of illness, and especially as their cognitive capabilities or social perceptions may be impaired by mental health problems, these listings are seen as potentially problematic. While we share this concern, we expand the investigation of the comparison of network ties from focal and network respondents to consider the nature of differences. Using data from Wave I of the Indianapolis Network Mental Health Study, we target the "health matters" network of individuals making their first major contact with the city's largest public and voluntary facilities. Overall, we find that the networks on which "first timers" rely to discuss health matters are small, with both focal and network respondents mentioning four individuals on average. The overlap in ties mentioned is just over 2 people (or 56 percent), on average, and differ with regard to the number of friends and health care professionals mentioned. Ironically, listings are more accurate for focal respondents who have more serious mental illnesses or larger networks. The extent of overlap is lower for women focal respondents than men. In sum, while convergence is in a range considered acceptable in network studies, the substantive nature of discrepancies have interesting and important theoretical and clinical implications.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1795-1806
    Number of pages12
    JournalSocial Science and Medicine
    Issue number9
    StatePublished - May 2004


    • Mental health
    • Social networks
    • Social support
    • USA

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Economics and Econometrics
    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
    • Social Psychology
    • Development
    • Health(social science)

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