Online Seminar Talk
Network Stability and Threats to Self and Others
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