Accuracy of name and age data provided about network members in a social network study of people who use drugs: implications for constructing sociometric networks

April M. Young, Abby E. Rudolph, Amanda E. Su, Lee King, Susan Jent, Jennifer R. Havens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose Network analysis has become increasingly popular in epidemiologic research, but the accuracy of data key to constructing risk networks is largely unknown. Using network data from people who use drugs (PWUDs), the study examined how accurately PWUD reported their network members' (i.e., alters') names and ages. Methods Data were collected from 2008 to 2010 from 503 PWUD residing in rural Appalachia. Network ties (n = 897) involved recent (past 6 months) sex, drug cousage, and/or social support. Participants provided alters' names, ages, and relationship-level characteristics; these data were cross-referenced to that of other participants to identify participant-participant relationships and to determine the accuracy of reported ages (years) and names (binary). Results Participants gave alters' exact names and ages within two years in 75% and 79% of relationships, respectively. Accurate name was more common in relationships that were reciprocally reported and those involving social support and male alters. Age was more accurate in reciprocal ties and those characterized by kinship, sexual partnership, recruitment referral, and financial support, and less accurate for ties with older alters. Conclusions Most participants reported alters' characteristics accurately, and name accuracy was not significantly different in relationships involving drug-related and/or sexual behavior compared to those not involving these behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)802-809
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Epidemiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (grant R01 DA024598 ) and the pilot research grant program of the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Abby Rudolph's effort was supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse (grant K01 DA033879 ). Ms. Su was supported by the University of Kentucky Professional Student Mentored Research Fellowship funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences/National Institutes of Health , through grant UL1TR000117 . We would also like to thank Dr. Ursula Mullins for her assistance in processing the data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.


  • Data accuracy
  • Drug abuse
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis C
  • Intravenous drug abuse
  • Rural health
  • Self-report
  • Social networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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