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Soc Networks. 2012 Jan 1;34(1):18-31.

Does Proximity Matter? Distance Dependence of Adolescent Friendships.

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University of Oxford, Department of Statistics, 1 South Parks Road Oxford, OX1 3TG, United Kingdom.
University of Oxford and University of Groningen, Nuffield College, New Road Oxford, OX1 1NF, United Kingdom.
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Montessorilaan, 6525 HR Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
University of Örebro, Fakultetsgatan 1, 701 82 Örebro, Sweden.


Geographic proximity is a determinant factor of friendship. Friendship datasets that include detailed geographic information are scarce, and when this information is available, the dependence of friendship on distance is often modelled by pre-specified parametric functions or derived from theory without further empirical assessment. This paper aims to give a detailed representation of the association between distance and the likelihood of friendship existence and friendship dynamics, and how this is modified by a few basic social and individual factors. The data employed is a three-wave network of 336 adolescents living in a small Swedish town, for whom information has been collected on their household locations. The analysis is a three-step process that combines 1) nonparametric logistic regressions to unravel the overall functional form of the dependence of friendship on distance, without assuming it has a particular strength or shape; 2) parametric logistic regressions to construct suitable transformations of distance that can be employed in 3) stochastic models for longitudinal network data, to assess how distance, individual covariates, and network structure shape adolescent friendship dynamics. It was found that the log-odds of friendship existence and friendship dynamics decrease smoothly with the logarithm of distance. For adolescents in different schools the dependence is linear, and stronger than for adolescents in the same school. Living nearby accounts, in this dataset, for an aspect of friendship dynamics that is not explicitly modelled by network structure or by individual covariates. In particular, the estimated distance effect is not correlated with reciprocity or transitivity effects.


adolescent friendship; distance; geographic proximity; network dynamics

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