Hostname: page-component-7d8f8d645b-p72pn Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-05-29T10:40:53.501Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

The origins of asymmetric ties in friendship networks: From status differential to self-perceived centrality

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 March 2015

Departments of Sociology and Statistics, Indiana University, 752 Ballantine Hall, 1020 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN 47405, USA (e-mail:
Department of Sociology, Indiana University, 744 Ballantine Hall, 1020 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN 47405, USA (e-mail:


Asymmetric ties make up a significant proportion of ties in friendship networks. But little is known about their origins. Prior research has suggested treating them either as “accidental” (e.g., resulting from constraints in name generators) or “aspirational” (i.e., the attempts of individuals to pursue relationships with higher status peers). In this paper, we show that self-perception can also explain the occurrence of asymmetric ties. We argue that under the general norm of reciprocity, actors with high self-perceived centrality will more likely send out ties to others than their counterparts. Supposing that outgoing ties are similarly reciprocated by peers, then actors with high self-perceived centrality will also entail more asymmetric ties. We test this idea along with the competing arguments using exponential random graph models (ERGMs) on network data collected from over 4,000 students in China. Consistent with previous findings, we find that asymmetric ties reflect status differences, but probably more strongly so for difference in individual status characteristics than difference in social positional status. More importantly, we find that students with high self-perceived centrality are about twice as likely to send asymmetric ties as their peers. Last, we examine the implications of our findings for future network research.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


An, W. (2011). Peer effects on adolescent smoking and social network-based interventions. Dissertation, Department of Sociology, Harvard University.Google Scholar
Anderson, C., Srivastava, S., Beer, J. S., Spataro, S. E., & Chatman, J. A. (2006). Knowing your place: Self-perceptions of status in face-to-face groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 10941110.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ball, B., & Newman, M. (2013). Friendship networks and social status. Network Science, 1, 1630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barrat, A., Barthelemy, M., & Vespignani, A. (2008). Dynamical Processes on Complex Networks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berger, J., Cohen, B. P., & Zelditch, M. Jr. (1972). Status characteristics and social interaction. American Sociological Review, 37, 241255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blau, P. M. (1964). Exchange and power in social life. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
Burt, R. S., Jannotta, J. E., & Mahoney, J. T. (1998). Personality correlates of structural holes. Social Networks, 20 (1), 6387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carley, K. (1991). A Theory of group stability. American Sociological Review, 56 (3), 331354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carley, K. M., & Krackhardt, D. (1996). Cognitive inconsistencies and non-symmetric friendship. Social Networks, 18 (1), 127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Centola, D., & Macy, M. (2007). Complex contagions and the weakness of long ties. American Journal of Sociology, 113 (3), 702734.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cillessen, A. H., & Rose, A. J. (2005). Understanding popularity in the peer system. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14 (2), 102105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cornwell, E. Y. & Waite, L. J. (2009). Social disconnectedness, perceived isolation, and health among older adults. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 50, 3148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Davis, J. A. (1968). Statistical analysis of pair relationships: Symmetry, subjective consistency and reciprocity. Sociometry, 31 (1), 102119.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Freeman, L. C. (1979). Centrality in social networks conceptual clarification. Social Networks, 1 (3), 215239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goodreau, S. M., Handcock, M. S., Hunter, D. R., Butts, C. T., & Morris, M. (2008). A statnet tutorial. Journal of Statistical Software, 24 (9), 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goodreau, S. M., Kitts, J. A., & Morris, M. (2009). Birds of a feather, or friend of a friend? Using exponential random graph models to investigate adolescent social networks. Demography, 46 (1), 103125.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Gould, R. V. (2002). The origins of status hierarchies: A formal theory and empirical test. American Journal of Sociology, 107 (5), 11431178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gouldner, A. W. (1960). The norm of reciprocity: A preliminary statement. American Sociological Review, 25 (2), 161178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78, 13601380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hallinan, M. T. (1978). The process of friendship formation. Social Networks, 1 (2), 193210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Handcock, M. S., Hunter, D. R., Butts, C. T., Goodreau, S. M., & Morris, M. (2003). statnet: Software tools for the statistical modeling of network data. URL Scholar
Heider, F. (1958). The psychology of interpersonal relations. Hillsdale, NJ: Psychology Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Holland, P.W., & Leinhardt, S. (1970). A method for detecting structure in sociometric data. American Journal of Sociology, 76 (3), 492513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hunter, D. R. (2007). Curved exponential family models for social networks. Social Networks, 29 (2), 216230.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jansson, I. (1999). Popularity structure in friendship networks. Social Networks, 21 (4), 339359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kilduff, M., & Krackhardt, D. (2008). Interpersonal networks in organizations: Cognition, personality, dynamics, and culture. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Li, Y. (2000). Women's movement and change of women's status in China. Journal of International Women's Studies, 1 (1), 3040.Google Scholar
Lomi, A. & Torló, V. J. (2014). The network dynamics of social status: Problems and possibilities. In Borgatti, S. P., Mehra, A., Labianca, G. (Joe), & Brass, D. J. (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives on organizational social networks (pp. 403420). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lusher, D., Koskinen, J., & Robins, G. (2013). Exponential random graph models for social networks: Theory, methods, and applications. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Martin, J. L. (2009). Formation and stabilization of vertical hierarchies among adolescents: Towards a quantitative ethology of dominance among humans. Social Psychology Quarterly, 72 (3), 241264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook, J. M. (2001). Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 415444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morris, M., Handcock, M. S., & Hunter, D. R. (2008). Specification of exponential-family random graph models: Terms and computational aspects. Journal of Statistical Software, 24 (4), 15481570.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Neal, J. W. (2010). Social aggression and social position in middle childhood and early adolescence: Burning bridges or building them? The Journal of early adolescence, 30 (1), 122137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Olk, P. M., & Gibbons, D. E. (2010). Dynamics of friendship reciprocity among professional adults. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40 (5), 11461171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Papachristos, A. V., Hureau, D. M., & Braga, A. A. (2013). The corner and the crew: The influence of geography and social networks on gang violence. American Sociological Review, 78 (3), 417447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rivera, M. T., Soderstrom, S. B., & Uzzi, B. (2010). Dynamics of dyads in social networks: Assortative, relational, and proximity mechanisms. Annual Review of Sociology, 36, 91115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Robins, G. L., Elliott, P., & Pattison, P. (2001). Network models for social selection processes. Social Networks, 23 (1), 130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Robins, G., Pattison, P., Kalish, Y., & Lusher, D. (2007a). An introduction to exponential random graph (p*) models for social networks. Social Networks, 29 (2), 173191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Robins, G., Snijders, T., Wang, P., Handcock, M., & Pattison, P. (2007b). Recent developments in exponential random graph (p*) models for social networks. Social Networks, 29 (2), 192215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Robins, G., Pattison, P., & Wang, P. (2009). Closure, connectivity and degrees: New specifications for exponential random graph (p*) models for directed social networks. Social Networks, 31 (2), 105117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Snijders, T. A. B., & Baerveldt, C. (2003). A multilevel network study of the effects of delinquent behavior on friendship evolution. Journal of Mathematical Sociology, 27, 123151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sørensen, A. B., & Hallinan, M. T. (1976). A stochastic model for change in group structure. Social Science Research, 5 (1), 4361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thye, S. R. (2000). A status value theory of power in exchange relations. American Sociological Review, 65 (3), 407432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Valente, T. W. & Davis, R. L. (1999). Accelerating the diffusion of innovations using opinion leaders. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 566 (1), 5567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Valente, T. W., Unger, J. B., & Johnson, C. A. (2005). Do popular students smoke? The association between popularity and smoking among middle school students. Journal of Adolescent Health, 37 (4), 323329.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Veselska, Z., Geckova, A. M., Gajdosova, B., Orosova, O., van Dijk, J. P., & Reijneveld, S. A. (2009). Socio-economic differences in self-esteem of adolescents influenced by personality, mental health and social support. European Journal of Public Health, 20 (6), 647652.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wang, C., Lizardo, O., Hachen, D., Strathman, A., Toroczkai, Z., & Chawla, N. V. (2013). A dyadic reciprocity index for repeated interaction networks. Network Science, 1 (1), 3148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wasserman, S., & Faust, K. (1994). Social network analysis: Methods and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wasserman, S., & Pattison, P. E. (1996). Logit models and logistic regressions for social networks: I. An introduction to Markov graphs and p*. Psychometrika, 61 (3), 401425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Webster, M. J., & Driskell, J. E. (1983). Beauty as status. American Journal of Sociology, 89 (1), 140165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zeggelink, E. (1995). Evolving friendship networks: An individual-oriented approach implementing similarity. Social Networks, 17 (2), 83110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: PDF

An and McConnell supplementary material


Download An and McConnell supplementary material(PDF)
PDF 286 KB