Why do we loose contact with some friends while the relations with others remain stable over time? Research shows that the frequency of contact within personal relations changes during our life course. The aim of our research was to develop and test general hypotheses that explain differences in stability and change of contact within personal relations over a longer period in time. The concept of 'social capital' was introduced by anthropologist and sociologist to describe the influence of personal relationships on a persons life. They showed that differences in social capital influence someone's educational career and the position on the labor market. The idea that people invest in one another to gain future access to different resources is one of the basic assumptions in social capital theory. It is assumed that, because the (expected future) value of investments in relationships is not stable over time, relationships are always subject to change. Our main research question was based on this assumption: is it possible to explain stability and change in personal relations by differences in the way people invest in these relations? Other research questions concerned the differences between types of support relations (emotional, instrumental and relationships based on companionship) and the influence of different life-events. For the analyses, information on 282 subjects was divided into four subsamples: 80 female subjects who gave birth to their first child during the research period, 92 subjects who had recently moved house, 50 male subjects retiring from the labor market and a random sample of 64 subjects. All subjects were interviewed three times over a period of four years. At the first interview subjects named a mean of 21 relationships. A year afterwards, the same amount of names were mentioned but a lot had changed. In the relationships mentioned in the first interview frequency of contact had decreased with 50%. After four years in one on every four relationships contact was lost. For changes in the long term, over 40% of the variance is explained by the direct costs and benefits, the amount of former investments, changes in the expected future value of these investments and the certainty of a shared future. These aspects were important in all three types of relations. The influence of other characteristics of the subjects on a decrease in contact were not significant. No support was found for the influence of personality and social skills on stability and change. Time restrictions, financial restrictions or limitations in physical mobility had no distinct influence on changes in the frequency of contact. Our hypothesis that a larger number of alternative relations leads to a loss of contact in other relations proved wrong. Although the general model showed a satisfactory explanation for changes in the long term, it was shown that a more differentiated approach was useful to explain changes in the short term. This proved particulary true for differences in investment decisions at a certain moment in time. Changes following the three life-events showed differences only in the short term.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Publication status||Published - 1996|