Negative ties and signed graphs research: stimulating research on dissociative forces in social networks

Nicholas M. Harrigan*, Giuseppe (Joe) Labianca, Filip Agneessens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Some relationships harm. Others are characterised by avoidance, dislike, or conflict. These relationships – known in the social networks literature as negative ties – are pervasive, arising in virtually all settings, including the family, workplace, school, neighbourhood, politics, within and between organisations, and international relations. While generally rarer than positive ties, the consequences of negative ties – whether they be gossip, conflict, bullying, violence, or war – are often considerably greater than their positive counterparts. Despite their importance, negative ties and signed graphs remain a relatively neglected area of social network research.

In this introduction to the special issue of Social Networks on negative ties and signed graphs, we provide a brief overview of past academic research in this domain. We begin by examining why this research area is so important to the study of social networks and society more generally. We then introduce briefly the existing literature, dividing it into three themes: (1) typologies, (2) causes, and (3) consequences of negative ties and signed graphs. As we review these themes, we situate the contributions made by the articles in this special issue, and end with some thoughts on future directions for the study of negative ties and signed graphs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Networks
Early online date15 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • negative ties
  • social networks
  • signed graphs
  • social network analysis
  • networks

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