This article provides an analysis of the main features of the personal networks capable of providing social support in Italy. The first part of the paper presents a theoretical and methodological discussion about the potentials and limits of the personal network analysis. In the second part, the author presents the method used in carrying out a survey on personal networks of a sample of the population residing in Italy. Through the use of the name generator, name interpreter, and name interrelator questionnaires, this survey enables to reconstruct the size, the contents, and the form of the personal networks of respondents. The contents analyzed are material resources, social credentials, contacts, and psychological support. The forms are studied through the concepts of structural holes and network closure. Moreover the personal networks are divided into the following social circles: relatives, friends, and acquaintances. The research was conducted on a sample of over 1.200 individuals. In the last part of the article the results of this research are presented and discussed. One of the findings of this research is that Italy is divided into two geographical areas, with respect to the presence of the personal networks of support: the inhabitants of Central and Northern Italy have personal networks much more extensive than the personal networks of the inhabitants of Southern Italy and of Italian Islands.
Keywords: Personal Network Analysis, Name Generator, Social Support, Structural Holes, Network Closure.