Methodological challenges and theoretical opportunities of collecting large personal networks in large samples


People’s social environment is key in explaining their behaviour and preferences. Unfortunately, obtaining information on the social environment, for instance through collecting personal network data, is difficult and often burdensome to participants. In this talk, I will first report on my experiences with collecting large personal network data (25 alters) from a representative sample of 758 Dutch women. I’ll then address some of the important design choices and reflect on the quality of the data that was gathered. In the second part of the talk, I use these data and simulation studies to address the trade-offs researchers face when designing network studies between the burden to respondents and the reliability of structural and compositional characteristics of networks. In the last part of the talk, I discuss how this study contributes to debates on the usefulness of the concept “friend” and the break-down of kin networks in contemporary populations.

Manchester, UK (online event)