Social Network Dynamics and Social Development among Preschoolers (2020-2021)

A growing body of research indicates that early environmental experiences during the first five years of life significantly shape an individual’s risk or resilience to a number of potentially negative mental and physical outcomes. However, there has been a paucity of data available to inform and evaluate the complex interactions between early life experience, social context and individual differences that place an individual at greater or lesser risk for poor social outcomes – such as isolation, bullying and aggression – over time.

This project team examined the feasibility of using social network analysis to understand how sociality and social cohesion develop in preschool-aged children. To do so, the team collected multiple, short video-recorded segments of children at play and learning activities within a preschool setting across multiple days within a week and multiple weeks within a year.

Team members developed and evaluated coding schemes capable of providing high-resolution data about individual and group interactions between children and teachers from collected video segments, and evaluated the amount of data needed to establish stable measurements of social networks across specific time periods. The team also used complex social network analyses (using R) to quantify the dynamic properties of child social networks within a classroom, and used complimentary sources of data to identify individual factors such as sex and age that may influence and/or interact with social network measures.

In 2021-2022, the team will continue to create social networks to analyze in R in order to visualize and analyze patterns of relationships that facilitate prosocial behavior.


Summer 2020 – Spring 2021

Team Outputs

Social network dataset on four preschool classes with children

This project team was originally part of the Education & Human Development theme of Bass Connections, which ended in 2022. See related team, Social Network Dynamics and Social Development among Preschoolers (2021-2022).


Image: Preschool programs, by Seattle Parks, licensed under CC BY 2.0


Team Leaders

  • Michael Gaffrey, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Craig Rawlings, Arts & Sciences-Sociology
  • Thomas Wolff, Arts and Sciences–Sociology–Ph.D. Student

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Elena Gray, Interdept CompSci/Psych (AB)
  • Jonah Perrin
  • Emily Raich
  • Mihika Rajvanshi, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Ashwin Subramaniam, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Carrie Wang, Statistical Science (BS)

/zcommunity Team Members

  • The Little School of Hillsborough
  • The Little School of Duke