Some Aspects of Diffusion Theory

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Highly homogeneous groups are not as likely as more heterogeneous groups to receive and be receptive to new ideas and behaviors. Increased levels of economic development open up new channels for diffusion, exposing new members of formerly homogeneous groups to more heterogeneous information and influ-.

Bongaarts and Watkins suggest that this process facilitates the diffusion of fertility control. These themes were reiterated by Carley, who, drawing on the evidence from the psychological literature on diffusion, noted that "information flows more quickly in integrated groups In addition, Palloni observed, "it is in homogeneous groups where sanctions are more likely to be applied efficiently against individuals who depart from conventional norms. Under these conditions, it would be individuals in heterogeneous social settings that would be more able to change their behavior.

Entwisle described the study she and her colleagues recently conducted in Nang Rong, Thailand, which addressed the question of the relationship between homogeneity and the adoption of a new form of fertility control injection of hormonal contraceptives. In earlier work based on data from , Entwisle et al. Entwisle and her colleagues tested two hypotheses in their most recent study: 1 distinctiveness in contraceptive method preference between villages decreases as the influence of local networks lessens and linkages to other villages and the national culture increases and 2 village centrality within a network of labor exchange in the district i.

She reported that the first hypothesis was supported by the data but the second was not. Indeed, it was found that village centrality had a greater association with the use of old methods than with the adoption of a new method. Citing several possible confounding factors, Entwisle noted that further work is planned to explore these unexpected findings.

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A final point regarding homogeneity of social networks was made by Carter, who described the challenges to researchers who do empirical work on diffusion. The idea that communities are culturally homogeneous is rejected by some anthropologists. He suggested that "many anthropologists are prone to see rather less community and a great deal more variation in social structure. The dimensions of this variation include systems of kinship and marriage, social stratification, and relationships to state institutions.

In Italy, heterogeneity in social class served as an obstacle to communitywide change.

Diffusion theory and multi-disciplinary working in children's services

Spatial proximity is generally assumed to facilitate diffusion because people tend to have more interaction with and be more influenced by those who are physically close. Spatial proximity also affects the flow of information between organizations and nations. However, Carley suggested that what matters most is not physical distance per se but perceived distance, so that communication bridges that appear to increase the physical proximity among people are thought to be critical to successful innovation Allen, Thus, linkages through modern telecommunications can create a perception of proximity that replaces actual physical closeness.

As indicated in the discussion of homogeneity, the characteristics of those who are in close spatial proximity to one another may sometimes act as a barrier to rather than a facilitator of diffusion. This point was expressed by Palloni, who suggested that various mechanisms can operate to render spatial proximity a means to either promote or discourage adoption of innovations. There is no consensus on the question of whether "strong" ties connections to those with whom one has daily contact or "weak" ties connections to those whom one sees infrequently are more important channels for the diffusion of innovative ideas.

Indeed, even definitions of strong and weak ties are not standard Granovetter, Cleland suggested that both are important, but emphasized the influence of those with whom one interacts daily.

Citing the work of Susan Watkins and her colleagues in South Nyanza, Kenya, he noted that "the experiences of close friends, neighbors, and relatives appear to be of particular importance. Montgomery suggested that the social identity of other actors in a network—the depth of information they possess, their credibility, and force of example—may determine whether a weak tie is activated.


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The study in Nang Rong by Entwisle et al. With regard to direct personal versus indirect impersonal ties, the former appear to be more important for diffusion. Goldman described a study conducted to examine the diffusion of beliefs about hygiene—specifically with regard to diarrheal disease—in rural Guatemala.

Goldman and her colleagues hypothesized that belief in the link between hygiene and diarrheal disease would be most common among women who knew others outside the community and among those living in communities that had significant contact with the outside world. They also hypothesized that women who were involved with community organizations or who had family members who were involved in these organizations would be more likely to hold such a belief because of their increased contact with innovative ideas circulating in the community.

The study results showed that personal.

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In particular, having a relative living abroad or in Guatemala City proved to be the most important channel for hygiene-related beliefs; participation in community groups was also significant. That is not to say, however, that indirect or impersonal ties have no role in diffusion. As suggested by Marsden, indirect ties may operate through intermediaries—exemplified by the "innovators" who are first to adopt a new technology or behavior. Moreover, the influence of ties of structural equivalence may not involve direct contact at all.

Citing Weimann , Marsden also noted that opinion leaders and their social networks have a far greater influence on adoption of family planning innovations than they do on creating awareness of these innovations. It is impossible, of course, to discuss the role of diffusion without addressing the role of mass communications, particularly television.

Just 15 years ago, many countries e. Today the situation is quite different. There is evidence in Brazil that, even among poor families, one of the first major purchases that many people make is a television, and the most-watched programs are news and soap operas Hornik and McAnany, Television is often an important source of new information.

Carley cited Gantz et al. Carley suggested that "the mass media often become the primary source of details on new information because of its one-to-many capabilities and its ability to transmit an encapsulated message with less change in that message. However, she suggested that since so many rural women listen to radio or watch television frequently, those media might be used to transmit specific health-related information. Robert Hornik cited evidence of the very strong association between access to mass media and fertility at several different levels.

At the national level, estimating a regression equation for countries shows that television sets per capita accounted for 82 percent of the variance in fertility in excluding three oilrich countries that were statistical outliers. In addition, Potter et al. Finally, Westoff and Bankole have demonstrated the association between media access and fertility intentions and behaviors for individuals in seven African countries. One potential problem with many studies of mass media effects is the possibility of selection bias. At any time, those who are already using contraception or who are considering using contraception are likely to be the most receptive to media messages about contraceptive use.

In cross-sectional studies, this will result in an association between contraception and mass media messages that is not due to the latter affecting the former Westoff and Rodriguez, ; Bankole et al. While acknowledging the need for caution in drawing causal inferences from correlational data, Hornik noted that relationships between television and fertility are as strong as or stronger than those between gross national product GNP per capita and fertility, and are still statistically significant when controlling for GNP.

Hornik cautioned against automatically concluding that individual exposure to television results in individual fertility reductions. Rather, the evidence indicates aggregate-level effects: nations or municipalities in which television is more widely available are those in which there is lower fertility.


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Hornik set forth four hypotheses about the pathways through which the media may influence fertility:. From a policy perspective, it is useful to know whether direct, program-related messages or indirect, more generalized, longer-term messages are more effective in diffusing fertility control. In reviewing the evidence on direct messages, Hornik observed that their effects appear to be limited in two ways. First, they help increase demand for clinics but do not seem to show clear effects on individual-level behavior. Second, their effects last only as long as the media. Thus, direct messages would appear to have short-term effects on those who are ready to act but need a final push.

Indirect messages, however, may have their greatest effect on those who are aware of a new behavior, but do not yet intend to adopt it. This influence may occur over a substantial period of time and require repetition and reinforcement through multiple channels as discussed below. Of course, it should be noted that IEC campaigns may be viewed by some as propaganda rather than policy. Many of the workshop participants agreed with Hornik's emphasis on the importance of indirect messages. Joseph Potter, for example, presented evidence from Brazil that indicates that television "reinforced the incorporation of audiences into a national consumer market, attached ideas and values concerning family structure and women's role in society, promoted a strong positive image for consumption, and prompted new ways to think about the relation of sex and reproduction" see Faria and Silva, ; Faria, ; Faria and Potter, , Potter suggested that diffusion through Brazilian television is strengthened by the fact that there is no explicit government policy to promote family planning, as well as by "the highly autonomous, dynamic, and uninhibited nature of Brazilian television programming.

Small families were consistently depicted, as were modern gender and intergenerational relations.

Sociological theory of diffusion - Wikipedia

The accomplishments of modern medicine—relevant to the eventual emphasis in Brazil on surgical sterilization during cesarean section deliveries—were also underscored. Channels for diffusion include not only ties to individuals or the mass media, but also ties to entities ranging from family planning programs to government to international organizations to the global community through modern telecommunications such as the Internet. Mason and Sinding argued that the role of population policies and programs on the diffusion of fertility control is often underestimated. They observed that there actually is strong evidence for the effects of population policy on fertility decline, but that such effects are often "accelerative" rather than "originative" and are at times ineffective, especially in the least-developed countries.

Mason and Sinding cited specific evidence from "countries in which structural conditions for fertility change have been inauspicious or even antithetical to change, but in which population programs were insti-. There is no clear evidence on whether programs and policies also influence the demand for children by diffusing ideas about the value of children and alternative means of enhancing family socioeconomic status.

Sinding suggested that governments have played an important role in fertility decline by sanctioning a form of behavior that represented a revolutionary change in what institutions had been teaching. Duff Gillespie agreed that governments can play an active role in the diffusion of new ideas. He suggested that more emphasis should be placed on the "social engineering" aspects of diffusion of fertility control: he noted the example of how government support in Bangladesh and India helped to diffuse knowledge of the benefits of oral rehydration therapy for infants suffering from diarrhea.

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Susan Watkins presented a rich and highly detailed history of the transformation of population ideology in Kenya. The conventional view emphasizes the activities of the Kenyan government, but her account stressed the vital and frequently neglected role that the international population movement played in this transformation.

Watkins suggested that Kenyan elites had little inclination to adopt the ideologies of the population movement, but did so for two primary reasons. Second, however, the Kenyan elites "wanted to signal that Kenya was not a backward nation, that it was a member of a global community.