Methods: Using eco-maps as a visual representation of individual relationships, connections, and environment, young Bhutanese refugee women(N=39) in a midwestern region participated in a community mapping exercise and illustrated their ecomaps to represent who they consider to be in their network and the type of relationship they have with them. We used Social Network Analysis using egocentric network, a personal-network research design to examine the characteristics of the ego-networks and the relationships between the ego (i.e., young Bhutanese women) and the individuals and services in their network using E-Net software. While the ego-level analysis provided insight into individual access to social support resources, the tie-level analysis explored characteristics and composition of entities included in the social networks.
Results: Findings showed variation in the participants’ social networks: entities (M=13, Range= 3 to 37) and categories (29) including family, friends, society, and community. Majority of the social network categories were relational (57.72%), community (33.6%) and society (2.32%). Family (24%) and friends (22.4%) were the most common entities. Out of 116 entities, 76 were identified as Bhutanese friends, which made up 13.5% of all entities and 65.5% of friends identified. Bhutanese establishments (including community center, food stores, restaurants) and teacher/professor/mentor each made up 7.74% of the entities identified. Disbursement of entities per circle measured levels of closeness The social network with the most circles included 9 levels of closeness. On average, participants included 5.34 circles in their social network. Results showed heterogeneity scores (M =0 .7, SD = 0.03) indicating diversity in the ego-networks.
Conclusion: While relational connections, specifically with family members are crucial, inclusion of entities like places, social media, and cultural connections may indicate creative ways for participants to promote social connections. Spaces outside of family and school that give refugee youth a place to explore their identity as well as build social capital can have extensive positive impacts for their overall well-being, sense of belonging, and inclusion in new spaces.