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Social Network Data Validity: The Example of the Social Network of Caregivers of Older Persons with Alzheimer-Type Dementia*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2010

Normand Carpentier
Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal
Francine Ducharme
Université de Montréal and Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal


This article offers reflection on the validity of relational data such as used in social network analysis. Ongoing research on the transformation of the support network of caregivers of persons with an Alzheimer-type disease provides the data to fuel the debate on the validity of participant report. More specifically, we sought to understand the factors that might influence the description of the support network by persons involved in caregiving. The issue warrants special attention, given that social relations – in their form and their content – constitute the raw material of network analysis. We propose that how persons describe their social network corresponds to a subjective process that rests, in part, on their representation of their cultural and social universe.


Nous avons comme objectif dans cet article d'apporter quelques éléments de réflexion sur la validité des données de type relationnel telles qu'utilisées dans le cadre de l'analyse des réseaux sociaux. Des travaux présentement en cours portant sur la transformation des réseaux de soutien d'aidants de personnes ayant une maladie d'Alzheimer fournissent les données afin d'alimenter le débat sur la validité des informations obtenues des participants. Plus spécifiquement, nous sommes intéressés à comprendre les facteurs pouvant influencer la description du réseau de soutien chez une personne dans des situations d'assistance aux soins. Une attention particulière doit être apportée à ces questions étant donné que les relations sociales – leur forme et leur contenu – représentent les matériaux de base de l'analyse des réseaux. Nous proposons que la description que fait la personne de son réseau personnel corresponde à une démarche subjective qui repose, en partie, sur la représentation qu'elle se fait de son univers culturel et social.

Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2007

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This research was funded in part by a Young Investigator Research Grant from the Alzheimer Society of Canada (no. 04–46) and by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (no. 64189). We also extend our sincerest gratitude to the caregivers who took part in the study.


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