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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Kenneth L. Beauchamp

First Committee Member

Martin T. Gipson

Second Committee Member

Gary N. Howells


Research with adult populations suggests that individual differences in social support may begin in childhood. It has been suggested that the makeup of people in a child's social support network could be indicative of the child's social development. Until recently there was not a measure available that could be used to report social support across the life span, therefore the ability to compare childhood social support networks to adult social support networks has been limited. The present research used a measure that has historically been used with adults and recently used with children as young as age 7, and used it with younger children (age 4). The measure used is a hierarchical mapping technique in which the children were asked to place the members of their social support network into three concentric circles. Four, 7, and 10 year olds (N = 286) participated in individual 20 min interviews. The social development of the child from age 4 to age 10 can clearly be seen in this research. For example, the older children have relationships of varying closeness and can made distinctions on the basis of closeness. In contrast, the younger child places most network members in the inner circle, possibly because the child is unable to make finer distinctions in relationships or possibly because the child actually has mostly relationships that would be described by placing them in the inner circle. Other findings include that as the child gets older, the social support network grows larger and includes more family members in the inner circles and more friends in the outer circles. The research also indicates that the reports of 4 year olds were just as reliable as those of 7 and 10 year olds.



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