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The Moderating Role of Context: Relationships between Individual Behaviors and Social Networks


A social context can be viewed as an entity or unit around which a group of individuals organize their activities and interactions. Social contexts take such diverse forms as families, dwelling places, neighborhoods, classrooms, schools, workplaces, voluntary organizations, and sociocultural events or milieus. Understanding social contexts is essential for the study of individual behaviors, social networks, and the relationships between the two. Contexts shape individual behaviors by providing an avenue for non-dyadic conformity and socialization processes. The co-participation within a context affects personal relationships by acting as a focus for tie formation. Where participation in particular contexts confers status, this effect may also lead to differences in popularity within interpersonal networks. Social contexts may further play a moderating role in within-network influence and selection processes, providing circumstances that either amplify or suppress these effects. In this paper we investigate the joint role of co-participation via social contexts and dyadic interaction in shaping and being shaped by individual behaviors with the context of a U.S. high school. Implications for future study of social contexts are suggested.

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