Social network experiences of older adults: Differences by gender and relationship status

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: The present study examines how relationship status and gender are associated with social network experiences among older adults. Two relationship status groupings were examined: comparisons of (1) marrieds, divorced, and widowed individuals and (2) never marrieds, cohabiters, and daters. Methodology: Data from the second wave of the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), a nationally representative dataset, was used. Of the final sample of respondents, 10.3% identified as Black, 6.8% identified as Hispanic, 52.9% identified as female, and the mean age of respondents was 72.54 (SD = 7.52). Linear mixed models were conducted. Results: Overall, men reported talking less and received less family and friend support than women. For only those who were divorced, widowed, or married, men were less close with their social networks and had less friend support than women. Widows were closer to their social networks than married and divorced individuals. Among women, divorced women were less close to their social network than married or widowed women. Those who were married talked less to their social networks than those who were divorced or widowed and cohabiters talked less than daters. Widows reported receiving greater family support than those who were married. Cohabiters had lower neighborhood social ties than those who were dating. Several significant interaction effects between gender and relationship status also occurred. Value: The present study found that both gender and relationship status plays a role in how social network experiences and lends some support to marriage and cohabitation serving as “greedy” institutions.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary Perspectives in Family Research
PublisherEmerald Group Holdings Ltd.
Number of pages20
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NameContemporary Perspectives in Family Research
ISSN (Print)1530-3535


  • Family and friend relationships
  • Gender
  • Neighbors
  • Older adults
  • Relationship status
  • Social networks


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