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Soc Sci Med. 2013 Oct;95:43-51. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.09.001. Epub 2012 Sep 12.

Social networks of experientially similar others: formation, activation, and consequences of network ties on the health care experience.

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Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, The School of Public Health and Health Professions, University at Buffalo, 320 Kimball Tower, Buffalo, NY 14214-8028, USA.


Research documents that interactions among experientially similar others (individuals facing a common stressor) shape health care behavior and ultimately health outcomes. However, we have little understanding of how ties among experientially similar others are formed, what resources and information flows through these networks, and how network embeddedness shapes health care behavior. This paper uses in-depth interviews with 76 parents of pediatric cancer patients to examine network ties among experientially similar others after a serious medical diagnosis. Interviews were conducted between August 2009 and May 2011. Findings demonstrate that many parents formed ties with other families experiencing pediatric cancer, and that information and resources were exchanged during the everyday activities associated with their child's care. Network flows contained emotional support, caregiving strategies, information about second opinions, health-related knowledge, and strategies for navigating the health care system. Diffusion of information, resources, and support occurred through explicit processes (direct information and support exchanges) and implicit processes (parents learning through observing other families). Network flows among parents shaped parents' perceptions of the health care experience and their role in their child's care. These findings contribute to the social networks and social support literatures by elucidating the mechanisms through which network ties among experientially similar others influence health care behavior and experiences.


Child health; Health care behavior; Social determinants; Social networks; Social support; United States

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