Can Burt’s Theory of Structural Holes be Applied to Study Social Support Among Mid-Age Female Sex Workers? A Multi-Site Egocentric Network Study in China
The epidemic of HIV/AIDS continues to spread among older adults and mid-age female sex workers (FSWs) over 35 years old. We used egocentric network data collected from three study sites in China to examine the applicability of Burt’s Theory of Social Holes to study social support among mid-age FSWs. Using respondent-driven sampling, 1245 eligible mid-age FSWs were interviewed. Network structural holes were measured by network constraint and effective size. Three types of social networks were identified: family networks, workplace networks, and non-FSW networks. A larger effective size was significantly associated with a higher level of social support [regression coefficient (β) 5.43–10.59] across the three study samples. In contrast, a greater constraint was significantly associated with a lower level of social support (β −9.33 to −66.76). This study documents the applicability of the Theory of Structural Holes in studying network support among marginalized populations, such as FSWs.
KeywordsTheory of structural holes Egocentric network Social support Mid-age female sex workers China
I am grateful to the staff from Shandong University School of Public Health, Nanning Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Hefei Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, and Qingdao Center for Disease Control and Prevention for their participation in the study, and to all the participants who willingly gave their time to provide the study data.
This work was funded by National institutes of Health (R01HD068305).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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