Counting on Kin: Social Networks, Social Support and Child Health Status in Mexico

Kanaiaupuni, Shawn Malia, Theresa Thompson-Colón, and Katharine M. Donato
Working paper no. 2000-10


This paper presents the results of new data collection in Mexico about the relationships between child well-being and social networks. Two research questions guide the analysis: first, under what conditions do networks generate greater support; and second, what kinds of networks are associated with healthier children. We explore the health status effects of several dimensions of social networks, including network size, kinship roles, interaction (proximity, contact and co-residence), and provision of financial and emotional support. Our key findings suggest that networks containing more extended kin and coresident members offer greater support to mothers with young children and that, in turn, network structures characterized by more social support and greater interaction with extended, rather than immediate, kin sustain healthier children. Together these findings attest to the importance of social networks founded on principles of reciprocity, confianza and compadrazgo to the well-being of Mexican families.