Online Seminar Talk

Network Stability and Threats to Self and Others

Liann Tucker
Laboratory of Digital and Computational Demography, April 19, 2022


Adolescents commonly feel lonely despite having friends, implying widespread episodes of alienation from close ties. We identify social network dynamics likely to engender alienation, focusing on rapid, wholesale turnover in close ties. More prevalent than network isolation, wholesale turnover generates another form of isolation, one that can only be observed over time. We argue that those with low network stability—individuals who consistently replace their close ties between windows of observation—are likely to experience alienation and are therefore at greater risk of harming themselves or other, in the forms of suicide attempts and threatening others with weapons. We examine network dynamics over a substantially longer timeframe and offer an extension of the commonly used Jaccard index that accommodates longitudinal data of any time length. We test a host of novel mechanisms by which low network stability could lead individuals to harm themselves or others, including emotional distress, excessive substance use, lack of academic drive, social motivations, and local network characteristics. We find some of these mechanism account for parts of the relationship, but puzzlingly, lower network instability is strongly associated with both suicide attempts and threatening behavior even after controlling for these and a host of other factors, implying additional pathways of risk.


Liann Tucker is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Duke University. She uses social network analysis to study adolescent mental health and health-risk behaviors. Her dissertation focuses on the causes and consequences of adolescent friendship stability. lianntucker.com

Robert Faris is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Davis. His research uses social network analysis to investigate how violence, bullying, and aggression shape social hierarchies. robertfaris.org

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.