Racial-ethnic differences in physical/mental health are well documented as being associated with disparities; however, emerging conceptual models increasingly suggest that group differences in social functioning and organization contribute to these relationships. There is little work examining whether racial-ethnic groups respond similarly to classic measures of social networks and perceived support and whether there are significant between-groups differences on these measures.
A multisite, cross-sectional study of 2,793 non-Hispanic White (NHW), non-Hispanic Black (NHB), and Hispanic participants was conducted using common measures of social networks and perceived support. A confirmatory factor analytic model was used to test for the invariance of factor covariance and mean structures in a three latent constructs model including social network, social provisions, and interpersonal support. Between-group differences in structural and functional support were assessed.
We established measurement invariance of the latent representations of these measures suggesting that racial-ethnic groups responded comparably. In direct comparisons, Hispanics and NHWs demonstrated similar levels of network structure and support. In contrast, NHWs reported support advantages on a majority of measures compared with NHBs.
Findings support the use of these measures across groups and provide initial support for potential differences in this hypothesized mediator of racial-ethnic health disparities.
Flores, Melissa; Ruiz, John M.; Goans, Christian; Uchino, Bert N.; Hirai, Michiyo; Tinajero, Ruben; and Smith, Timothy W., "Racial-Ethnic Differences in Social Networks and Perceived Support: Measurement Considerations and Implications for Disparities Research" (2020). Psychological Science Faculty Publications and Presentations. 27.
Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology