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Unanticipated GainsOrigins of Network Inequality in Everyday Life$
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Mario Luis Small

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195384352

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195384352.001.0001

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Weak and Strong Ties

Weak and Strong Ties

Whether Mothers Made Close Friends, Acquaintances, or Something Else

(p.84) 4 Weak and Strong Ties
Unanticipated Gains

Mario Luis Small

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the closeness of the friendships that mothers tended to make in centers—that is, whether they were generally weak or strong ties. Using national survey data, it finds that most mothers who made friends in centers made close friends, not merely acquaintances. However, deeper probing based on in‐depth interviews finds that the friendships were close, or intimate, in two different senses. Some mothers made standard intimate ties, family‐like relations that served as sources of all‐around support. These relations exhibited the characteristics that network sociologists have associated with “strong” ties. Other mothers made compartmentally intimate ties, relations that, violating expectations of some network theorists, were both strong and domain‐specific, with talk, conversation, and activity strictly limited to the domain of families, children, and the center. The chapter shows that compartmentally intimate ties were made possible because the organizational context, through the institutions shaping interactions in the centers, performed much of the work required to sustain strong relations, while providing a focus of activity.

Keywords:   Mark Granovetter, Edward Laumann, standard intimates, compartmental intimates, strong ties, weak ties

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