Macquarie University
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A new approach to the social capital and the social networks of Australian families

posted on 2022-03-28, 10:51 authored by Sheila D. Watkins
The existence of families has long been seen as fundamental to the structure and health of a society. Nevertheless, current sociological thought sees family in terms of a 'haven', as a private, isolated unit, a place in which individual members can retreat from society. The reality of 'family' in today's Australian society does not fit this model, if it ever did. This thesis aims to provide a new approach to the family, one that sees family as active and engaged. It also argues that, as a result of its connected nature, this family is able to provide a type of value to its members. This value is conceived of as social capital. The ability of this family to generate social capital through its networks makes the family an interactive social entity, underpinning its position as part of the structure of society. -- However, some social networks are more able to supply benefits than others. By exploring types of participation in terms of social, community, civic and economic participation, as well as formal and informal engagement, the thesis argues that while active participation is essential in generating benefits there are factors which can impinge on such participation. The effects of 'place' or the embedded locations of networks is undoubtedly important in bonding people within communities and acting as a bridge to others, however, the thesis finds that communities of interest generate more social capital. The thesis also argues that attitudes toward family independence or autonomy may compromise network exchange. Variations in the meaning of the norm of independence either emphasize the interdependency of society or highlight a definitive responsibility of the individual and family. In the former, the interdependency of society is emphasized. In the latter, network exchange is compromised. Independence thus becomes an essential element in the measurement of social capital and a cultural dimension of why some social networks are better able to supply benefits.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- PART I: Theoretical and analytic instruments to examine family social networks and a literature review of network characteristics -- 2. Social capital - the value of connections -- 3. Social capital as resources -- 4. Networks and social capital -- 5. Characteristics of networks -- PART II: Research procedures -- 6. Research procedures -- PART III: Typologies and social capital in this study -- 7. Network typologies in this study -- 8. Levels of social capital -- PART IV: Factors that constrain or enhance access to social capital -- 9. Participation and social capital -- 10. Location and opportunity -- 11. Independence and social capital -- 12. Conclusion: family as an active and engaged social entity.


Bibliography: leaves 365-391

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Deparment of Sociology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Sociology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Michael Fine


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Sheila D. Watkins 2009.






xiv, 428 leaves col. ill., map, plates, ports

Former Identifiers

mq:11029 1437505