American Sociological Association

The Contingent Value of Embeddedness: Self-affirming Social Environments, Network Density, and Well-being

Social capital theorists claim that belonging to a densely knit social network creates a shared identity, mutually beneficial exchange, trust, and a sense of belonging in that group. Taken together with the empirical research on the importance of social support and social integration for individuals’ well-being, there is reason to expect that the density of one’s personal social network should be positively related to well-being. However, using a unique data set on extensive personal social networks from a convenience sample of 198 young adults, the author finds that the relationship between network density and well-being is significantly more complex. Specifically, results suggest that the effect of network density on self-evaluations of efficacy and worth depends on whether or not individuals belong to self-affirming social environments. For those who belong to self-affirming social environments, network density increases self-esteem and self-efficacy, which is consistent with social capital theorists’ contention that social closure (network density) results in social integration and a sense of belongingness. Importantly, however, density reduces self-efficacy and has no statistically significant effect on self-esteem for those with disaffirming social environments.


Walker, M. H.





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