Social Networks

Kirk A. Foster and Victoria A. Charles

in Encyclopedia of Social Work

Published by NASW Press and Oxford University Press

Published online February 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780199975839 | DOI:

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Social networks are structures composed of relational patterns of interactions among a set of actors. These actors may be individuals, families, groups, or organizations connected through expressed ties that allow information and resources to flow through the network. Considering a social network approach in research and practice shifts the focus from the attributes of actors within the network to the relations between them. In understanding how the relational ties influence issues of concern, we may better understand phenomena and devise targeted interventions effectively and efficiently. In this article we discuss the types of social networks, provide an overview of social network analysis, use social capital to contextualize the effects of networks, and provide implications of social networks for social work research and practice.

Keywords: social networks; social network analysis; social capital; strength of weak ties; network theory; resource brokerage; centrality

Article.  8330 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Human Behaviour and the Social Environment

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