Preliminary insights into associations between C-reactive protein and social network dynamics

Olga Kornienko, Jenna Riis, Marissa Davila, Nicole S. White, Pamela W. Garner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent social psychoneuroimmunology models suggest bidirectional associations between social experiences and the immune system. This work posits that social relationships and networks may influence the functioning of the immune system, but we know little about the role that the immune system plays in how social networks are created and maintained. We examine how salivary C-reactive protein (CRP), as an inflammatory protein, is associated with making new and keeping existing friendship and conflicted relationships among young adult members of a social group. Participants (n = 37; 67.6% female; M age = 18.18 years, 56.81% white/non-Hispanic) provided nominations of friends and individuals with whom they have conflict at wave 1 and two months later at wave 2. At wave 1, in a group setting, participants donated saliva, later assayed for CRP. Stochastic actor-based models revealed that CRP levels were negatively associated with keeping existing friends and positively associated with developing new friendships. We also found that CRP levels were negatively associated with creating new conflicted relationships and predicted an increased likelihood that group members continue conflicted relationships with the focal individual. These preliminary results support the premises of recent social psychoneuroimmunology models by suggesting that inflammation can also serve as a signal to seek new supportive relationships such as friendships and avoid creating new relationships characterized by threat and/or conflict. Findings provide new insights into the theorized function of the immune system for social approach and withdrawal patterns through which our social connections are constructed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105690
StatePublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • C-reactive protein
  • Conflict
  • Friendship
  • Inflammation
  • Social networks
  • Stochastic actor-oriented modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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