Network patterns in the social sharing of grief

Social network analysis is used to identify patterns of social attributes that interface bereaved persons and their social environment in grief sharing.

Project No. G 304

Roman Ebel

Do you remember the last time you were very happy or very upset? You might have gone to a specific friend or family member to celebrate or 'let off steam'. That this specific person felt right to do so is part of emotions and social processes at the same time. The project aims at analyzing which social attributes (such as gender or education) are interfaced in the social sharing of emotions. Some studies suggest that women are chosen more often in emotion sharing. Yet, which social attributes link together in emotion sharing when most contacts are male and there is little contact to women?

To investigate questions like these, a social network analytic design is used. Social network analysis is a mathematically rigorous method to conceptualize interpersonal architectures. Consequently, this point of view takes the social environment of focal actors into account.

The design is empirically grounded in one of the most severe life crises humans go through: conjugal grief. One reason for the severity of grief might be that the resources for connecting with others, which were once focused on the spouse, have to be mobilized all over again. Previous research suggests a pronounced tendency to share grief and empathic reactions from the people in the connected network. If and how the social sharing of grief can be conceptualized as an interpersonal architecture is put to empirical scrutiny.

Other than extensions of sociological concepts describing the interrelation of structure and emotions, the project contributes to an understanding of the conditions of emotional competence. Specifically, forms of interpersonal empathy and mediums of empathy (such as telephone, face-to-face contact or the internet) can be delineated.




Prof. Dr. Christian von Scheve