Social and Kinship Networks

Utilization and Effects on Health Behavior

Much of the research on informal networks, church supports, and extended family in the Black community was done in the early to mid 1980s. Intergenerational family support and support from the extended family has been the hallmark of health care in the African American community. Formal and informal supports are used by both Whites and Blacks in need of help.

However, Blacks have more active social support networks, with mechanisms in Black families that serve to expand network membership through creation of “fictive” kin (Johnson, 1990). Family support behavior among Blacks is grounded in respect for each generation. Among older African Americans, much of this support is the result of socioeconomic factors (Mutran, 1985), although cultural tradition is pervasive in caregiving to parents, siblings and other relatives (Fried, 1998).

Studies have shown high levels of social interaction and strong emotional bonds between elderly Blacks and their extended families, which is facilitated by the presence of an adult child and proximity to immediate family and relatives (Taylor, 1991).