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Friendship Networks Through Time: An Actor-Oriented Dynamic Statistical Network Model


We propose a class of actor-oriented statistical models for closed social networks in general, and friendship networks in particular. The models are random utility models developed within a rational choice framework. Based on social psychological and sociological theories about friendship, mathematical functions capturing expected utility of individual actors with respect to friendship are constructed. Expected utility also contains a random (unexplained) component. We assume that, given their restrictions and contact opportunities, individuals evaluate their utility functions and behave such that they maximize the expected amount of utility. The behavior under consideration is the expression of like and dislike (choice of friends). Theoretical mechanisms that are modelled are, e.g., the principle of diminishing returns, the tendency towards reciprocated choices, and the preference for friendship relations with similar others. Constraints imposed on individuals are, e.g., the structure of the existing network, and the distribution of personal characteristics over the respondents. The models are illustrated by means of a data-set collected among university freshmen at 7 points in time during 1994 and 1995.

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Van De Bunt, G.G., Van Duijn, M.A. & Snijders, T.A. Friendship Networks Through Time: An Actor-Oriented Dynamic Statistical Network Model. Computational & Mathematical Organization Theory 5, 167–192 (1999).

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  • rational choice
  • friendship
  • Markov processes
  • random utility models
  • simulation
  • empirical test