JIRON, EDITH MAE; DSW

                         COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, 1989

                         SOCIAL WORK (0452); HEALTH SCIENCES, MENTAL HEALTH (0347)

                         This research explored the social network structures and support needs of two clinically defined crisis
                         populations--phone-ins to a community mental health center's crisis line, and walk-ins to several hospital
                         psychiatric emergency rooms--and the mediating power of their social networks in expediting or delaying
                         usage of crisis services. The data were derived from a questionnaire and interview of 75 phone-ins and
                         75 walk-ins assessing: (1) the structural characteristics of their social networks (e.g. size, density); (2) the
                         characteristics of their component linkages (e.g. accessibility, reciprocity, multidimensionality); and (3)
                         the normative context of their relationships (e.g. kin, friends, work acquaintances). The process by which
                         an individual develops, nurtures, and uses supportive ties within the context of a crisis experience was
                         examined, and the relationships between contact type (walk-ins, phone-ins) and the network and
                         demographic variables were evaluated to determine if particular network processes and needs were
                         associated with either crisis population. The major findings indicate that people in crisis have similar social
                         network structures and support needs. They are generally dissatisfied with the influence of their present
                         social networks and express a desire to better the supportive provisions of their networks through
                         improved accessibility, reciprocity, and homogeneity in their relationships. Family members played a
                         significant role in the social network structures of people in crisis, with over 50 percent of all confidants
                         named being kin. Men preferred to relate to their own sex more than women but women contacted their
                         confidants more often than men. Race was by far the most common social attribute shared with
                         confidants, and homogeneity in social attributes was found to play an important role in network usage.
                         High quality support was defined in terms of accessibility. Emotional support was found to be the
                         supportive function most often provided by confidants. The quality of emotional support varied from
                         highly supportive to extremely disappointing, with both groups expressing a need for improved network
                         relations. The implications of this study suggest that intervention approaches such as network therapy,
                         or social systems therapy, might improve existing networks of people in crisis and reduce and possibly
                         prevent future crisis incidents.


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