The research will develop improved measures of social connection through coordinated analyses of intensive ethnographic data and a longitudinal demographic data about the same population in a rural area of South Africa. A great volume of research conducted in various contexts demonstrates that social connection is an important determinant of well-being measured by outcomes such as education, nutritional status, employment prospects, access to health care, and support of the aged and infirm. The most common measure of social connection in population and public health research is co-residence, which has critical limitations. Failure to attend to the full range of social relationships limits our ability to understand the social context of health and well-being. To redress this failure, we will use existing ethnographic data and longitudinal demographic data from rural South Africa to develop new measures of social connection that can be used in social surveys. The ethnographic data is from an intensive fieldwork investigation of children's networks of support in the Children's Well Being and Social Connection project (CWSC) which we conducted between 2002 and 2004. The quantitative data is the result of fourteen rounds of a population-wide census in a sub-district population of 70,000 people conducted by the Agincourt Health and Demographic Surveillance System (AHDSS). The project has three specific and coordinated aims. First, we identify meaningful and efficient indicators of social connection by using all the available data from the CWSC. This is done by identifying instances of resource transfer and behavior that directly impact children's well-being, analyzing these instances to determine the relevant social relationships, individual, household and community characteristics, and spatial distribution of the actors and resources involved, and classifying the coded instances and reduce the list by selecting the most frequent and important patterns. Second, we determine which indicators of social connection identified in Aim 1 can, and which cannot, be measured by manipulating the data from the AHDSS by linking new data files to the AHDSS database, adding links between existing files, and deriving new variables. Third, we assess the value of the new indicators of social connection added to the AHDSS database in Aim 2 by comparing the explanatory power of models that do and do not include these variables in predicting measures of child well-being such as education and mortality. This research will increase the utility of the AHDSS, and potentially, of other censuses and surveys, in explaining child well-being outcomes. By integrating ethnographic, spatial, and longitudinal population data it will contribute to the development of interdisciplinary methods for studying population and public health.

Public Health Relevance

Resources, such as money, food, protection, opportunities, care, and emotional support that flow directly from person to person are vital for the well-being of children in poor countries that do not have strong market or government institutions. To understand why some people thrive and others do not, and to direct policy interventions effectively, we must understand the web of social connections that surrounds and supports them. This project will produce improved measures of social connection by integrating ethnographic data and longitudinal demographic data about the same population in a poor, rural area of South Africa.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-HOP-B (90))
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King, Rosalind B
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Brown University
Social Sciences
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Madhavan, Sangeetha; Myroniuk, Tyler W; Kuhn, Randall et al. (2017) Household structure vs. composition: Understanding gendered effects on educational progress in rural South Africa. Demogr Res 37:1891-1916
Madhavan, Sangeetha; Gross, Mark (2013) Kin in Daily Routines: Time Use and Childrearing in Rural South Africa. J Comp Fam Stud 44:175-191