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Prev Sci. 2011 Dec;12(4):349-60. doi: 10.1007/s11121-011-0229-2.

Strengthening prevention program theories and evaluations: contributions from social network analysis.

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Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA.


A majority of school-based prevention programs target the modification of setting-level social dynamics, either explicitly (e.g., by changing schools' organizational, cultural or instructional systems that influence children's relationships), or implicitly (e.g., by altering behavioral norms designed to influence children's social affiliations and interactions). Yet, in outcome analyses of these programs, the rich and complicated set of peer network dynamics is often reduced to an aggregation of individual characteristics or assessed with methods that do not account for the interdependencies of network data. In this paper, we present concepts and analytic methods from the field of social network analysis and illustrate their great value to prevention science--both as a source of tools for refining program theories and as methods that enable more sophisticated and focused tests of intervention effects. An additional goal is to inform discussions of the broader implications of social network analysis for public health efforts.

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