Social networks of children attending head start from the perspective of the child

Kelly K. Bost, Kerry L. Cielinski, Wanda H. Newell, Brian E. Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to provide self-descriptions of the social support networks for 185 African American children attending Head Start in Alabama. Data analyses tested the significance of gender and residential location as factors influencing these children's reports concerning their social networks and the support they received from network members. Although the networks children reported averaged nearly 20 members, the bulk of support from network members was provided by household residents and close kin. Girls tended to report having larger social networks than did boys. Subsequent analyses of subsets within the social networks indicated that girls named more adults, peers, and relatives in their networks than boys did. However, further analyses for these categories indicated that girls were more likely than boys to mention that their peer relations were negatively toned. Examination of site differences revealed significant multivariate and univariate effects of site location on structural and supportive network variables. Site differnces with respect to social network and social support variables were not found to be functions of easily recorded demographic features of the sample such as residential location, family-living pattern, maternal education, or maternal employment. However, informal assessments of parent participation in the activities of the center suggests that such participation was associated with increases in the size of children's social networks. Our findings suggest that broad social factors that are not simple functions of demographic status variables may determine the particular opportunities and constraints that exist within a child's social environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-462
Number of pages22
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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