When making decisions about the appropriateness of social networks and social support for a specific study, it is necessary to consider both desirable and less than desirable aspects of the model. This section highlights strengths and weaknesses of the social networks and social support model for investigations of health.
Strengths of the model
Since the social networks and social support model is not a theory per se, it has broad appeal. The model's structure lends itself to a number of theories from various fields.
The model acknowledges the bi-directionality of hypothesized relationships.
Limitations of the model: Conceptual & Methodological Concerns
Definitions of social support vary widely. Terms are used "loosely and sometimes interchangeably" (Berkman, Glass, Brissette, & Seeman, 2000, p 844).
Translating concepts that are distinctly different theoretically into variables that are distinctly different results in high intercorrelations.
It is usually unclear which pathway(s) is under investigation.>
Certain paths are the focus of many empirical investigations while others remain virtually unexplored.
Entire pathways are not being tested appropriately. One of 7 pathways represents a direct relationship, yet mediation analyses are not common practice. Conclusions about an entire pathway cannot be drawn from separate investigations of portions of the pathway (Weinstein, 2007).
A strong correlation between a supportive social network and exercise plus a strong correlation between a exercise and cardiovascular disease does not necessarily indicate a stronger relationship between the supportive social network and cardiovascular disease.
Missing network data may cause difficulties during statistical analyses (Kossinets, 2006).