Assessment of social network change in a national longitudinal survey

Benjamin Cornwell, L. Philip Schumm, Edward O. Laumann, Juyeon Kim, Young Jin Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Objectives. This article describes new longitudinal data on older adults' egocentric social networks collected by the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP). We describe a novel survey technique that was used to record specific personnel changes that occurred within respondents' networks during the 5-year study period, and we make recommendations regarding usage of the resulting data. Method. Descriptive statistics are presented for measures of network size, composition, and structure at both waves, respondent-level summary measures of change in these characteristics between waves, as well as measures that distinguish between changes associated with losses of Wave 1 network members, additions of new ones, and changes in relationships with network members who were present at both waves. Results. The NSHAP network change module was successful in providing reliable information about specific changes that occurred within respondents' confidant networks. Most respondents lost at least one confidant from W1 and added at least one new confidant between waves as well. Network growth was more common than network shrinkage. Both lost and new ties were weaker than ties that persisted throughout the study period. Discussion. These data provide new insight into the dynamic nature of networks in later life, revealing norms of network turnover, expansion, and weakening. Data limitations are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S75-S82
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2014


  • Aging
  • Network change
  • Social isolation
  • Social networks


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