The structure of support: Mapping network evolution in an online support group

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Abstract

Online social support groups enable individuals to create specialized networks that provide access to a variety of resources. Although the efficacy of such communities has been studied, less understood are the structural mechanisms behind their emergence and the ways these mechanisms foster ties and may subsequently affect provision of support. This paper analyzes an online support group (OSG) for parents of children with ADD/ADHD over a one-year period, focusing on the interplay of structure and technology in the creation of the emergent support network. Findings highlight a dual network structure that supports a variety of relationships and levels of participation. Whereas a core group of members generates the initial content, the network becomes self-sustaining and supports a fluid membership between active and inactive members. Structurally, the network offers four types of support: direct, indirect, relational, and functional. Together, findings emphasize the interplay among technology, structure, and communication in advancing specialized channels of communication in a digital age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-365
Number of pages11
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Volume64
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Psychology(all)

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