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Network Theory & Methods

What about Network Theory & Methods

I have used key concepts from social network analysis to enhance core theories in psychology and implementation science. I'm also interested in advancing improving methods for network data collection and analysis in the field of psychology.

Network Theory

The ecological systems that influence individuals (i.e., micro-, meso-, exo-, macro-, and chrono-) are typically conceptualized as nested like the layers of an onion. However, Bronfenbrenner’s early writings suggest that these systems may more accurately be viewed as overlapping and connected by social interactions. Using these early writings and Simmel’s conception of intersecting social circles, I've suggested that ecological systems are better conceptualized as networked rather than nested.  Specifically, I redefined each system in Bronfenbrenner’s model based on patterns of social interactions.  I also recently proposed a new framework of implementation capital that merged existing frameworks of implementation outcomes and network social capital.

Network Methods

In addition to theoretical contributions, a subset of my work has focused on improving methods for network data collection and analysis in schools and in the field of psychology.  For example, I have outlined the use of Krackhardt’s (1987) cognitive social structures (CSS) as a solution to the problem of missing data in school-based network research. Additionally, some of my work has clarified the assumptions underlying social cognitive mapping (SCM), a common procedure in developmental psychology for deriving children’s peer groups from network data. More recently, I have been interested in improving network data collection methods, particularly in the field of developmental psychology.  To this end, I published a systematic review of network data collection methods used in 201 empirical articles published in the top 30 developmental psychology journals. 

Selected Papers about Network Theory & Methods

Neal, Z.P., & Neal, J.W. (in press). That’ll move the chains: Collecting network chain data. Social Networks. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socnet.2019.10.007

Neal, Z.P., Neal, J.W., & Domagalski, R. (in press). False positives using social cognitive mapping to identify children's peer groups. Collabra. [replication materials available at https://osf.io/txgph/]

Neal, J.W. (2020). A systematic review of social network methods in high impact developmental psychology journals. Social Development, 29, 923-944. https://doi.org/10.1111/sode.12442

Neal, Z.P., & Neal, J.W. (2017). Network analysis in community psychology: Looking back, looking forward. American Journal of Community Psychology, 60, 279-295. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajcp.12158

Neal, J.W., & Neal, Z.P. (2013).  Nested or networked? Future directions for ecological systems theory. Social Development, 22(4), 722-737. https://doi.org/10.1111/sode.12018

Neal, J.W. (2008). Kracking the missing data problem: Applying Krackhardt’s cognitive social structures to school-based social network research. Sociology of Education, 81, 140-162. https://doi.org/10.1177/003804070808100202

Collaborators on Network Theory & Methods

Rachel Domalgalski, Michigan State University

Dr. Mariah Kornbluh, University of South Carolina

Dr. Zachary Neal, Michigan State University

© 2020 by Jennifer Watling Neal