Combining measures of group cohesion: A longitudinal study

Anne-Maree Dowd (2012). Combining measures of group cohesion: A longitudinal study PhD Thesis, UQ Business School, The University of Queensland.

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Author Anne-Maree Dowd
Thesis Title Combining measures of group cohesion: A longitudinal study
School, Centre or Institute UQ Business School
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2012
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Neil Paulsen
Dr Anne Pisarski
Dr Bernadette Watson
Total pages 193
Total colour pages 23
Total black and white pages 170
Language eng
Subjects 160806 Social Theory
150311 Organisational Behaviour
150310 Organisation and Management Theory
Abstract/Summary Over many decades, researchers from a diverse number of disciplines have developed theoretical and methodological approaches to the systematic study of small groups, in particular the construct of group cohesion. A considerable amount of empirical and conceptual work has been published on group cohesion but controversy still remains as to its definition and measurement due to the diverse range of theoretical and methodological perspectives generated from research conducted within disciplinary silos. The research reported in this thesis adopts a multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional approach to investigate group cohesion. The integration of insights derived from three different perspectives (functional, social network and temporal) as well as multiple construct dimensions (task vs. social cohesion and individual vs. group variables) has the potential to enhance the understanding of group cohesion, more so than past investigations of the construct limited by the boundaries of particular disciplines. The longitudinal investigation increase knowledge of influential drivers of change in group cohesion but in combining traditional survey research with social network analysis, the research also enables a greater understanding of the connection between the cognitive, behavioural and structural elements of cohesiveness in small groups. The research addresses three major areas of cohesion research: • perceptions versus behaviour related to task and social cohesion; • network structure (the longitudinal evolution of network structure); and • network dynamics (mechanisms that lead to tie formation). In particular the following research questions were addressed: RQ1: To what extent do group member perceptions of task and social cohesion change over time? RQ2: To what extent do group members’ task and social networks change over time, which in turn affects task and social cohesion? RQ3: What generative mechanisms drive change in both task and social networks that reflect the field of forces affecting task and social cohesion over time? To address research question one, the first study utilised a survey design to identify and compare multi-dimensional levels of group cohesion over five points in time. The second study addressed research question two by longitudinally investigating group members’ task and social networks using various social network measures of group cohesion. To address research question three, the research used actor-orientated longitudinal network analysis to determine the generative mechanisms driving change in cohesion within both task and social networks. Two analytical programs were used for analysing change in both separate and joint networks over time. The modelling tools included endogenous and exogenous effects to identify the generative mechanisms driving change in the networks. The stochastic modelling occurs in two stages: firstly, structural modelling of both networks separately over time, and secondly, joint modelling of multivariate networks over time. Both approaches are based on exponential random graph models. The results in Study 1 determined a significant change in perceptions of group cohesion over time. The measures for individual attraction to the group due to both task and social aspects and group integration based on social attraction exhibited significant change over time while the group integration based on task attraction did not. The changes that occurred were varied in direction for each of the variables. The change in perceptions of cohesion from Study 1 was contradicted by the changes identified in cohesive network behaviour in Study 2. For example, participants indicated a decrease in perceptions of cohesion in the traditional survey method in time three, yet network data showed cohesive behaviour was at its peak, indicating a difference between how group members perceived levels of cohesion and their cohesive behaviour over time. In Study 3, social network analysis was used to examine the statistical models for both longitudinal univariate and multivariate network structures and the influence of attributes on tie formation. Separately, the social network analysis over time found the reciprocity estimate significant and positive, which indicates that people tend to interact with one another at a social level and the interaction, tends to be mutual. Similar findings were found for the task network, except the changes were less frequent. When both networks are analysed jointly, the analysis suggest that decisions by individuals to form ties in task and social networks are interconnected. This connection demonstrates the cohesive strength of the network, also known as multiplexity. In addition, attributes such as tenure, gender and position also proved to be significant influences on the separate and joint networks. The research demonstrates new contributions to theory, methods and practice not only by combining three small group research disciplines but also through longitudinal multivariate network analysis. The combination of a traditional survey approach and network analysis to measure and model multi-dimensional group cohesion over time is unique. Even though one group of 30 people was used in this analysis, the current research stands as a pilot for this type of approach. The prospect of future expansion of this work into evaluating multiple levels of cohesion with multiple types of groups is promising.
Keyword Group Cohesion
Small group research
Additional Notes Colour pages: 28, 40, 45, 63, 65, 82, 88-93, 96, 98, 100, 103-104, 117, 119, 122, 174, 185, 193. Landscape pages: 49, 103-104, 186-193. A3 pages: 193.

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Created: Tue, 01 May 2012, 14:45:53 EST by Miss Anne-maree Dowd on behalf of Library - Information Access Service