An exploration of the online and offline social networks of post primary school pupils in Northern Ireland and their relationship with subjective wellbeing

  • Deborah Webster

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Social networks are ubiquitous in the lives of adolescents. The thesis aimed to investigate the relationship between social networks (both offline and online) and adolescent subjective wellbeing. This was done in three ways: - firstly, a systematic literature review was conducted to examine the current literature exploring the association between subjective wellbeing and adolescent social networks. Secondly, a quantitative analysis using secondary data was undertaken to investigate the relationship between friendship networks, social media use and the subjective wellbeing of 13-year-old pupils in 77 post primary schools in Northern Ireland. Finally, the thesis conducted focus groups with pupils, teachers, and parents in three post-primary schools in Northern Ireland. The focus groups explored the impact that using social media can have on adolescent subjective wellbeing and how the use of social media is being addressed at home and at school. Emerging themes found across all three studies were: - body image, self-esteem, mood (both positive and negative), and sociability. Themes found in both the systematic review and the focus groups were: - loneliness, feeling left out, comparison and high investment. Sleep was a theme that emerged from both the quantitative and the focus group study. There is a need for intervention programs and education for young people, educators, and parents to address the risks to subjective wellbeing brought about by online social networks.
Date of AwardJul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorLaura Dunne (Supervisor) & Ruth Hunter (Supervisor)


  • Social networks
  • social media
  • adolescent
  • wellbeing

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