Social network dynamics in the course of family formation: Results from a mixed-methods longitudinal study

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Abstract

In this article we examine the relationship between various biographical transitions of young adulthood and the structure of social networks. We ask how personal networks change in size and composition over the course of family formation or expansion, and due to other biographical transitions. We use data from an exploratory longitudinal study that uses mixed methods of social network analysis. We were able to reconnect with 29 of 98 young adults who were interviewed from 2004 to 2006, and conducted detailed qualitative interviews with 18 of them in 2011. Our findings suggest that biographical transitions do rather have an effect on the composition than on the size of personal networks. Biographical transitions do not necessarily lead to a decrease in network size due to network partners dropping out. These network partners often get substituted by new network partners that match changing priorities in different life stages. Particularly important transitions are the interviewees’ own parenthood, as well as the parenthood of their network partners. Transitions in relationship status, relocations, and job changes were also identified as relevant biographical transitions.

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