Does network involvement matter? Using relational intervention data to explain change in personal networks of parents during a family intervention.

Lukas Fellmann


Personal networks of parents are a complex web of interdependent relationships that go beyond the boundaries of the household. Research has shown that personal network configurations have a strong influence on the quality of parenting. Particularly, social support has been stressed as an important factor with many positive effects. However, personal relationships can also be a source of frequent conflict, stress, control or ambivalence. In fact, the co-occurrence of positive and negative dimensions is a common feature of personal networks of parents. Against this background, the consideration of personal networks of parents using child welfare services is highly relevant to understand their embeddedness in social contexts. The current state of research shows that there is a lack of studies about the impact of family interventions on networks of families or family members. In the current study I examined change in personal networks of n= 46 parents receiving a home visiting family intervention in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. This service addresses families in which the well-being of a child is at risk. To measure change in the personal networks of the parents I applied a fixed panel design with three measurement points. The egocentric networks of the parents were collected with the Personal Network Method (PNM) including alter-alter relationships. The main assumption of this study is that change in network structures is largely associated with the involvement of people in the intervention who are in or outside of the parent’s network. To collect this information, the social workers were asked to indicate whom they involved in the intervention (so called relational intervention data). The following results refer to the time between the start of the intervention and six months later. On average, the social workers involved three people who were listed in the personal networks of the parents, which is 41 percent. Additionally, they involved on average three and a half people who were not part of the personal network of the parent. These were mainly professionals, such as teachers or psychologists. Results show that the percentage of network members involved in the intervention has a significant positive effect on the density in the support networks. The number of people who were involved in the intervention but who are not member of the personal network of the parent has a significant negative effect on the in-degree and out-degree of the parent in the support networks. This could indicate that the involvement of people outside of the network substitutes support in the personal networks of the parents. However, network involvement did not have any significant effects on the network measures of the conflict networks. This might suggest that change in support and conflict networks have different mechanisms. The results of the study show that combining egocentric network analysis and relational intervention data can be a promising approach for researching the impact of social interventions on networks.

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