Child & Youth Care Forum

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 357–369 | Cite as

An Inquiry of Children’s Social Support Networks Using Eco-Maps

  • Jennifer Baumgartner
  • Lauren Burnett
  • Cynthia F. DiCarlo
  • Teresa Buchanan
Original Paper



Children receive support for their learning and development from multiple sources and within various developmental contexts. The extant literature investigating children’s social supports has uncovered multiple benefits to positive and complex social support system. However, the measurement of children’s social supports has largely been accomplished through accessing knowledge of either a parent or child. In order to understand children’s support systems, which are embedded within multiple contexts and prejudiced by multiple influences, it is imperative to access all relevant perspectives.


This exploratory project was undertaken by a preschool teacher-researcher in order to understand the types of information eco-maps provide about children’s social support networks in an effort to support young children’s learning and development.


Eco-map interviews describing children’s social networks were completed by preschool-age children, their parents and their preschool teacher. Each informant identified the major people in the child’s support network, described relationships, and identified the type and developmental area of support provided by each individual. All the information was graphically represented within an eco-map using shapes and color coding to distinguish variations.


Qualitative analysis of five children’s completed maps revealed three themes: agreement on an inner circle, different perspectives on the kinds of support provided, and children’s unique way of expressing support.


Eco-maps with children, parents, and teachers may contribute to educational research and practice through providing detailed information about children’s social support network through the identification of resources to support the development and learning of young children.


Social supports Preschool children Eco-maps 


  1. Ahn, J., & Filipenko, M. (2007). Narrative, imaginary, play, art, and self: Intersecting worlds. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(4), 279–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baumgartner, J., & Buchanan, T. (2010). “I have HUGE stereotypes”: Using eco-maps to understand children and families. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 31(2), 173–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berk, L. (2003). Child development (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar
  4. Bost, K. K. (1995). Mother and child reports of preschool children’s social support networks: Network correlates of peer acceptance. Social Development, 4(2), 149–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bost, K. K., Cielinski, K. L., Newell, W. H., & Vaughn, B. E. (1994). Social networks of children attending head start from the perspective of the child. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 9, 441–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bost, K. K., Vaughn, B. E., Washington, W. N., Cielinski, K. L., & Bradbard, M. R. (1998). Social competence, social support, and attachment: Demarcation of construct domains, measurement, and paths of influence for preschool children attending head start. Child Development, 69(1), 192–218.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bretherton, I., Oppenheim, D., Buchsbaum, H., Emde, R. N., & The MacArthur Narrative Working Group (1990). MacArthur story stem battery. Unpublished manual.Google Scholar
  8. Bronfenbrenner, U. (Ed.). (2005). Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  9. Burnett, L. (2008). Measuring children’s social support networks: Eco-mapping protocol. (master’s thesis). Retrieved from Louisiana State University Electronic Thesis & Dissertation Collection.Google Scholar
  10. Cook, T., & Hess, E. (2007). What the camera sees and from whose perspective: Fun methodologies for engaging children in enlightening adults. Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research, 14(1), 29–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Curry, J., Fazio-Griffith, L., & Rohr, S. (2008). My solar system: A developmentally adapted eco-mapping technique for children. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 3(3), 233–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Epstein, J. (2001). School, family, and community partnerships. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  13. Franco, N., & Levitt, M. J. (1997). The social ecology of early childhood: Preschool social support networks and social acceptance. Social Development, 6(3), 292–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Glenn-Applegate, K., Pentimonti, J., & Justice, L. M. (2011). Parents’ selection factors when choosing preschool programs for their children with disabilities. Child & Youth Care Forum, 40(3), 211–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., & Jones, K. P. (1997). Parental role construction and parental involvement in children’s education. Retrieved from ERIC, Ipswich, MA:
  16. House, J. (1981). Work stress and social support. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  17. Kent, J. B., Strickland, M. J., & Marinak, B. A. (2009). Child voice: How immigrant children enlightened their teachers with a camera. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37, 13–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kroeger, J., & Lash, M. (2011). Asking, listening, and learning: Toward a more thorough method of inquiry in home-school relations. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27, 268–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Larkina, M. (2009). The role of maternal verbal, affective and behavioral support in preschool children’s independent and collaborative autobiographical memory reports [Abstract]. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 69(9-B),5808.Google Scholar
  20. Martinussen, R., Tannock, R., & Chaban, P. (2011). Teachers’ reported use of instructional and behavior management practices for students with behavior problems: Relationship to the role and level of training in ADHD. Child & Youth Care Forum, 40(3), 193–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mashburn, A. J. (2008). Quality of social and physical environments in preschools and children’s development of academic, language, and literacy skills. Applied Developmental Science, 12(3), 113–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McCormick, K., Stricklin, S., Nowak, T., & Rous, B. (2005). Using eco-mapping as a research tool. (National Early Childhood Transition Center Spotlight #1). Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, Interdisciplinary Human Development Institute. Retrieved from
  23. McCormick, K., Stricklin, S., Nowak, T., & Rous, B. (2008). Using eco-mapping to understand family strengths and resources. Young Exceptional Children, 11(1), 17–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mollenhorst, G., Volker, B., & Flap, H. (2008). Social contexts and personal relationships: The effect of meeting opportunities on similarity for relationships of different strength. Social Networks, 30(1), 60–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Page, T., & Bretherton, I. (2001). Mother- and father- child attachment themes in the story completions of pre-schoolers from post-divorce families: Do they predict relationships with peers and teachers? Attachment and Human Development, 3(1), 1–29.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Ray, R. A., & Street, A. F. (2005). Eco-mapping: An innovative research tool for nurses. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 50(5), 545–552.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Robinson, L.R., Boris, N.W., Heller, S.S, Rice, J., Zeanah, C.H., Clark, C., & Hawkins, S. (2011). The good enough home? Home environment and outcomes of young maltreated children. Child and Youth Care Forum, doi: 10.1007/s10566-011-9157-3 (Advance online publication).
  28. Shpancer, N. (1998). Caregiver-parent relationships in daycare: A review and re-examination of the data and their implications. Early Education and Development, 9(3), 239–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Skylerman, R. F., Thompson, J. M. D., Pryor, J. E., Becroft, D. M. O., Robinson, E., Clark, P. M., et al. (2005). Maternal stress, social support, and preschool children’s intelligence. Early Human Development, 81(10), 815–821.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Strauss, J., & Corbin, A. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  31. Weems, C., & Overstreet, S. (2008). Child and adolescent mental health research in the context of Hurricane Katrina: An ecological needs-based perspective and introduction to the special section. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 37(3), 487–494.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Wolchik, S. A., Beals, J., & Sandler, I. N. (1989). Mapping children’s support networks: Conceptual and methodological issues. In D. Belle (Ed.), Children’s social networks and social supports (pp. 191–221). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  33. Yu, C. H., Jannasch-Pennell, A., & DiGangi, S. (2011). Compatibility between text mining and qualitative research in the perspectives of grounded theory, content analysis, and reliability. The Qualitative Report, 16(3), 730–744.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer Baumgartner
    • 1
  • Lauren Burnett
    • 1
  • Cynthia F. DiCarlo
    • 1
  • Teresa Buchanan
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Human EcologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Educational Theory, Policy, and PracticeLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

Personalised recommendations