Engendering change: Culture and social networks

Danielle Kane, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation reports on a multi-method, longitudinal study of the co-evolution of social networks and values among university students. To predict the direction of network and value change, I develop a model of culture-network interpenetration that emphasizes students' lived experience as a means of understanding both network evolution and network effects. Using this model I demonstrate that the culture of the secular university (as distinct from that of many religious and liberal-arts colleges) creates pressures toward the formation of sparse, diverse networks. In fact, students who enter with this network structure favored by the university, a network structure most often found among the upper classes, experience an easier transition to university life, as reflected in GPA as well as in their own accounts. Important gender differences emerged for students entering the university with dense networks. Because of cultural norms that subject girls to much greater surveillance and scrutiny in their families, women in this study, regardless of network back ground, were much more likely than men to find the transition to university life to be liberating. In addition, I argue that because of cultural norms that prescribe emotion work for women but not for men, women were much more adept at developing ties that eased this transition. These two culturally-based gender differences are reflected in gendered patterns of network evolution and network effects. For men, levels of diversity were tied to incoming level of density, while for women they were not. In addition, network change produced divergent effects in women and men: As women's networks became more sparse and diverse, their attitudes became more liberal; as men's networks became more sparse and diverse, their attitudes became more conservative.

Subject Area

Sociology|Social research|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Kane, Danielle, "Engendering change: Culture and social networks" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3211091.