Sociometrics and Social Networks

Diposting oleh belajarpsikologi on 26 November 2010
”Sociometry” refers to the sociological thought of Jacob L. Moreno, whose work was published largely between 1925 and 1960, as well as that of other investigators working in the same tradition. The best-known element in this system is the sociometric test, which is used to measure attraction and repulsion existing between two persons. First introduced in the monograph Who Shall Survive? (Moreno, 1934), the theoretical system encompasses “experimental sociometrics” and its use to study individual adaptation within the peer context, group psychotherapy, and the psychodrama. 
The monograph contains data from several kinds of participants: Most were adult inmates of either prisons or psychiatric hospitals, but some work was also done with children and adolescents (e.g., girls incarcerated in a training school). Helen Jennings (1937–1938) was probably responsible for popularization of sociometry with children, an application that was then taken up by many others, including Mary Northway, Norman Gronlund, and Urie Bronfenbrenner, who contributed important methodological and quantitative innovations (Cillessen & Bukowski, 2000).

Several assumptions marked Moreno’s theorizing: First, individuals are conceived as “social atoms,” that is, the person considered together with other individuals who want to be associated with him or her. Second, assessment of the individual’s social adaptation is based on the assumption that attraction and repulsion are orthogonal processes in social relations. Third, sociometric assessment refers both to how the individual perceives others, in terms of liking and repulsion, and how others perceive the individual. Fourth, sociometric tests can be based on a range of information, including who wants to associate with whom; who wants to engage in certain activities with someone else; and who likes someone, dislikes someone, or does not want to associate with the other person. 
Fifth, quantification can take either of two basic directions: (1) Information about attraction and repulsion can be used to construct “sociograms” revealing social networks existing within a collective, as well as the individual’s centrality within them; or (2) respondents’ nominations can be used to calculate “sociometric scores,” that is, aggregated assessments of attraction and repulsion toward the individual that are expressed by the other members of the group.
Many persons contributed to sociometric methodology over the years and no “gold standard” exists even today (Cillessen, Chapter 5, this volume). Scores based on the number of children who like or dislike an associate are used in some investigations, but in others, more elaborate derivations are used to classify children as popular, rejected, neglected, and controversial (Coie, Dodge, & Coppotelli, 1982; Newcomb & Bukowski, 1983). A conceptual change suggested by Craig Peery (1979) was important in the development of these latter assessments, to wit, that the dimensionality of sociometric status should be based in “social preference” and “social impact” rather than attraction and repulsion. 
Social network analysis now comprises a large body of research within sociology. Its aims are to describe the manner in which individual lives are embedded in networks involving many different people, ways of thinking about these networks both qualitatively and quantitatively, the social processes involved in their creation, and their impact on individuals. Sociograms are the basis for certain kinds of network analysis. 
Sociometric tests, of course, require the assessment of attraction or rejection of every member of the group by every other member, making network analysis difficult in situations involving large groups that extend beyond classrooms and schools. Children and adolescents, however, are knowledgeable informants about “who hangs out with whom,” making it possible through “social-cognitive mapping” (Kindermann & Gest, Chapter 6, this volume) to identify members of social networks, the centrality of individual members to the network, the cohesiveness of the network, and various other characteristics. 
Robert and Beverly Cairns (1994) believe that these networks figure importantly in working out individual adaptations during preadolescence and adolescence, constituting “lifelines” when they are supportive and consonant with children’s conventional norms but “risks” when composed of aggressive and antisocial children. Social networks gain this significance, in their view, owing to the homophilies (similarities) that exist within them. 

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