Are Social Network Connections Essential for Individuals’ Mental Health & Social Development?

Research Paper Title

Social Network Mediation Analysis: A Latent Space Approach.


A social network comprises both actors and the social connections among them. Such connections reflect the dependence among social actors, which is essential for individuals’ mental health and social development.

In this article, the researchers propose a mediation model with a social network as a mediator to investigate the potential mediation role of a social network.

In the model, the dependence among actors is accounted for by a few mutually orthogonal latent dimensions which form a social space. The individuals’ positions in such a latent social space are directly involved in the mediation process between an independent and dependent variable.

After showing that all the latent dimensions are equivalent in terms of their relationship to the social network and the meaning of each dimension is arbitrary, the researchers propose to measure the whole mediation effect of a network.

Although individuals’ positions in the latent space are not unique, they rigorously articulate that the proposed network mediation effect is still well defined. They use a Bayesian estimation method to estimate the model and evaluate its performance through an extensive simulation study under representative conditions.

The usefulness of the network mediation model is demonstrated through an application to a college friendship network.


Liu, H., Jin, I.H., Zhang, Z. & Yuan, Y. (2020) Social Network Mediation Analysis: A Latent Space Approach. Psychomtrika. doi: 10.1007/s11336-020-09736-z. Online ahead of print.

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