Nelon, Jordan Lindsey (2020-07). The Use of Social Network Analysis to Assess Social Support Among Young Adults Who Experience Disability: A Program Evaluation. Doctoral Dissertation.
Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) impact individuals across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and those who experience IDD have higher rates of loneliness and social isolation. Through supportive relationships, individuals with disabilities can mitigate the negative health outcomes related to loneliness and isolation (i.e., abuse, exploitation, mental health disorders, lower quality of life). Social network analysis (SNA) is a theory and methodology that allows researchers to understand the connections between people and observe the adoption, spread of beliefs and behaviors, and impacts relationships have on an individual. The purpose of this dissertation was to use SNA to investigate the perception of social support among individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). To do so, we conducted a scoping literature review and two SNAs. The scoping review documented 7 studies investigating the social networks of individuals with IDD. This review provided insight into how studies have been conducted and network composition of those with IDD. The first SNA comprised an egocentric network analysis and measured the characteristics related to social support within a sample of individual with IDD who attend a career preparation program. The second SNA utilized a sociometric network design to measure network characteristics related to depression within the same sample. Results from a scoping review and two SNAs suggest: (a) SNA is an applicable method to assess social support for individuals who experience IDD; (b) multiple name generators are a promising tool to differentiate types of social support; (c) the social networks of those who experience IDD have the ability to grow if given the opportunity; and (d) individuals with IDD can provide support to each other. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.