Toward a gendered theory of networks

Elisa Bellotti, Termeh Shafie, David Schoch, András Vörös, Martin Everett


Social network generative mechanisms (ie. transitivity, reciprocity) are usually measured as effects that act homogeneously on every actor in a given network, and on one type of relationship. We argue that this may not be the case, as different actors, engaging in different interactions, may act and react differently to such mechanisms: in particular, we advance the hypothesis that males and females over time, resolve non-reciprocal ties and intransitive triads differently, which ultimately leads to different group formation processes. We also suggest that such differences vary according to the type of interaction that is measured, and that gendered overall network dynamics depend on how generative mechanisms are deployed in positive as well as negative ties. Building on a robust literature review, we develop a set of testable hypothesis for a gendered theory of networks. We draw on friendship and dislike data from 18,133 adolescents in four European countries to test our hypotheses. First, we observe how multiplex ties develop in same sex and cross sex relationships; second, we look at reciprocal tendencies within and across gender groups; finally, we develop a triad census for same sex and cross sex relationships. Our study contributes to a burgeoning literature which stresses the importance of social context for social mechanism and lays the foundations for a gendered theory of networks.

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