Quality & Quantity 38: 517–532, 2004.
© 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
The Quality of Measurement of Personal Support
and ANUŠKA FERLIGOJ
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Kardeljeva pl. 5, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Abstract. Data about personal networks and their characteristics are increasingly used in social
science research, especially in research about the quality of life, social support and similar topics
(Fischer, 1982; Marsden, 1987; van der Poel, 1993b). Since all data about a person’s social network
are usually obtained from the respondent himself, the quality of such measurements is a very im-
portant issue. Among other factors, the type of social support can affect the quality of social network
measurement (Ferligoj and Hlebec, 1998, 1999). Differences in the stability of measurement between
the core and extended personal network have also been found (Marsden, 1990; Morgan et al., 1997).
The closer and the more important an alter is, the more likely it is that (s)he will be named in any
measurement (Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik, 1990; Van Groenou et al., 1990; Morgan et al., 1997). In this paper
the results of a recent study on the quality of measurement of tie characteristics in different personal
subnetworks are presented. The Multitrait-multimethod (MTMM) approach was used for estimating
reliability and validity. A meta analysis of reliability and validity estimates was done by hierarchical
clustering. The data were collected in the year 2000 by computer assisted face-to-face and telephone
interviews from a random sample of 1033 residents of Ljubljana.
Key words: egocentered networks, measurement, reliability, validity, social support.
Social network analysis has become extremely important in many research ﬁelds
(e.g., sociology, political science, economy, organizational sciences). One of the
most important ﬁelds where social network analysis is used is social support,
which has been discovered to be one of the important factors inﬂuencing physical
and mental health and well-being (Hirsch, 1981; House, 1981; Gottlieb, 1983;
Samuelsson, 1997). On the basis of such research it is possible to design and
implement social interventions, an opportunity which is especially important for
speciﬁc populations (elderly, families with young children, families with seriously
ill members, etc.).
Therefore studying the measurement quality of social network measurement
instruments is extremely important, because knowing which factors affect meas-
urement quality affects decisions about the planning of substantive studies. It is
important to know how well we can measure with certain measurement instruments
Author for correspondence. E-mail: Tina.Kogovsek@guest.arnes.si