The dynamics of developmental networks


Dobrow, S. R. & Higgins, M. C. 2019. “The dynamics of developmental networks.” Academy of Management Discoveries, 5(3), 221-250.


This study explores the dynamics of developmental networks – the set of relationships a protégé names as taking an active interest in and action to advance his/her career. Although prior research has demonstrated the benefits of developmental networks, we know relatively little about how these networks change over time or the antecedents of developmental network dynamics. As research on career and adult development theory has suggested, professional development occurs within a dynamic, relational context; therefore, exploring network dynamics may enable future research to gain greater insight into how career trajectories unfold. In a 10-year, four-wave prospective longitudinal survey study of 136 U.S. business school students and their over 1600 relationships, we explore the dynamics of developmental networks, including the starting points (intercepts) and the rates of change (slopes) of the content of help provided (average career and psychosocial support) and the networks’ structure (network density, tie closeness, and communication frequency). Our multilevel longitudinal analyses show how these network characteristics change over time and how the content and structure of the support provided covary. Further, we explore individual-level and organizational/industry-level antecedents of network change trajectories. We conclude with implications of our discoveries for future theory-building and research on developmental networks, mentoring, and careers, and offer suggestions for consideration for practice.
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