Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Social Networks and Health of Sexual and Gender Minorities
by Matsumoto, Cynthia Glory, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2020, 191; 27996846
Abstract (Summary)


The goal of this dissertation is to understand egocentric social networks and their relationship to health in sexual minorities (SMs) compared to non-sexual minorities (non-SMs).

Materials and Methods

Secondary data analysis of egocentric social network data was used to complete this objective. The University of California Berkeley Social Network Study or “UCNets” was a longitudinal 5-year panel study to observe changes in egocentric social networks in response to life changes. The egocentric social networks of two cohorts of people ages 21- to 30-years-old and 50- to 70-years-old were collected in three waves. This study used Wave 1 of the UCNets data, which are publicly available. The sample was dichotomized to compare SM and non-SM egocentric social networks.


Networks consisted of mostly friends and not kin for SMs and non-SMs regardless of age and sexual orientation. SMs had fewer children in their networks compared to non-SMs. There were fewer churchmates in the networks of SMs compared to non-SMs. When combining network structure and function to include who provided the support (kin, non-kin friends, and others) and the type of support (socializing, instrumental, etc.), there were differences between SMs and non-SMs. The areas of support where SMs had significantly less kin support than non-SMs were socializing support, practical support, and support if they were sick or injured. With less kin in the networks, fewer SMs helped their kin when compared to non-SM people. Homophily was also different between SMs and non-SMs. SMs had more diverse ethnic/racial networks, had networks with more coworkers, and with different religions. Strength of ties, which was measured by feeling especially close to network members and frequency of contact, was lower in SMs. Both younger and older SMs felt less close to their network members than non-SMs. The density of younger SM networks was less than non-SM networks.

Social network characteristics associated with decreased depression included race and ethnicity homophily, socializing support provided by kin and non-kin friends, and kin who help when the participant is sick or injured. An increase in depression was seen for kin who are demanding. For self-rated health, feeling especially close, frequent electronic contact, and non-kin friend socializing support were associated with better health.


Social networks of SMs are different from non-SMs in network composition, type of support received, homophily, strength of ties, and density. Although the finding of more non-kin friends aligns with the existing SM literature, this finding is not expected for non-SM social networks. SMs have fewer children in their networks compared to non-SMs. This finding is expected for the older cohort, but with more societal acceptance of SMs, the difference in children is unexpected in the younger cohort. There were fewer churchmates in the networks of SMs and churchmates have been shown to provide different types of social support. Churches and their congregations might remain less accepting of SMs.

Depression is associated with socializing with kin and SMs have fewer kin they socialize with than non-SMs. Although not significant when weighted, the networks of SMs have more ethnic and racial diversity than non-SM networks. An increase in racial and ethnic homophily is associated with less depression. Feeling especially close is associated with better self-rated health and SMs do not feel as close to their networks as non-SMs. The differences seen in egocentric social network characteristics and their relationship to health warrants collection of sexual orientation (and gender identity) data.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kim, Katherine K.
Commitee: Drake, Christiana, Holloway, Ian W.
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Nursing
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 82/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: LGBTQ studies, Nursing, Sociology
Keywords: LGBTQ, Sexual and Gender Minorities, Social Networks, Social Support
Publication Number: 27996846
ISBN: 9798664725643
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