Learning to negotiate network relations: Social support among working mothers living in poverty

Shira Offer, Sarit Sambol, Orly Benjamin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This study promotes our understanding of the complex and dynamic role that social support networks play in the everyday life of working mothers living in poverty, by focusing on the processes of negotiation involved in the creation, maintenance and mobilization of social ties. It is based on semi-structured interviews with 12 Israeli-Jewish working mothers who participated in an economic empowerment workshop. Findings indicate that the participants received much social support from relatives, friends and community activists. However, they further reveal the hard hidden work of negotiation and the process of learning involved in obtaining support. Particularly important in this context of poverty was the need to learn how to ask for support by overcoming feelings of shame and concerns about respectability, and to reduce social burdens by, among other things, refusing to participate in the 'gift economy' and limiting constraining social relationships. Finally, this study shows how the seemingly divergent interpretations of negotiation in social-exchange theory and symbolic interactionism (reaching an agreement that maximizes benefits versus preserving the relationship) often converge in everyday life situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-482
Number of pages16
JournalCommunity, Work and Family
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Gift economy
  • Low-income mothers
  • Negotiation
  • Social networks
  • Social support


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