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7 - Sociality and Elementary Forms of Structure

from Part II - Seeing Structure

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 September 2023

Craig M. Rawlings
Duke University, North Carolina
Jeffrey A. Smith
Nova Scotia Health Authority
James Moody
Duke University, North Carolina
Daniel A. McFarland
Stanford University, California
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By looking at networks as collections of smaller elementary structural forms – mainly all combinations of two nodes (dyads) and three nodes (triads) among whom ties may or may not exist – one can learn much about the larger structure. This is especially useful when that structure is very large and therefore difficult to see as a whole. And yet, these most elementary forms of social structure are not simply mathematical constructs; they reflect the fundamental ways that social actors relate with one another as individuals and as social units (i.e., sociality). Thus, a network with many social elements of one type, and fewer of another, suggests a certain way of relating involved in how the network has formed and where it might be going. In this chapter, we introduce the reader to dyads and triads as forms of interacting and relating. We cover techniques for decomposing networks into these constituent elements and connecting variation at the micro level as a way of seeing macro-level structures.

Network Analysis
Integrating Social Network Theory, Method, and Application with R
, pp. 143 - 160
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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Suggested Further Reading

Adams, Rebecca G., and Allan, Graham (eds.). 1999. Placing Friendship in Context. New York: Cambridge University Press. (An edited collection that combines social psychological and social-structural research on friendship.)Google Scholar
Bearman, Peter S., and Moody, James. 2004. “Suicide and Friendships among American Adolescents.” American Journal of Public Health 94: 8995. (An early Add Health study finding that female students who are embedded in intransitive peer groups have high rates of suicidal ideation.)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Chase, Ivan. 1980. “Social Process and Hierarchy Formation in Small Groups: A Comparative Perspective.” American Sociological Review 45: 905–24. (Develops an elegant model for how interactive sequences must cumulate to transitive hierarchical dominance relations among chickens.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Faust, Katherine. 2008. “Triadic Configurations in Limited Choice Sociometric Networks: Empirical and Theoretical Results.” Social Networks 30: 273–82. (Examines triadic patterns across a large body of empirical cases suggesting that much of the variation in triadic patterns is due to lower-order features.)Google Scholar
Hallinan, Maureen T. 1974. “A Structural Model of Sentiment Relations.” American Journal of Sociology 80(2): 364–78. (Hallinan provides one of the richest sequences of papers examining how social balance and intransitivity play out in youth network dynamics. A critical sequence of papers for understanding interdependence in interpersonal network change. See also Hallinan 1978; Hallinan and Kubitschek 1990.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hallinan, Maureen T. 1978. “The Process of Friendship Formation.” Social Networks 1: 193210. (See note for Hallinan 1974.)Google Scholar
Hallinan, Maureen T., and Kubitschek, Warren N.. 1990. “The Formation of Intransitive Friendships.” Social Forces 69(2): 505–19. (See note for Hallinan 1974.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Taylor, Howard Francis. 1970. Balance in Small Groups. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company. (An overview of early forms of balance theory from the 1940s to 1970 exploring which aspects of triadic arrangements are altered before others and which hold more stability: lowest edge weight, negative sign, or the type of node in question [e.g., an actor or an object]. Considers balance mostly in cognitive terms.)Google Scholar

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