Who is dropped and who comes back? Explaining leaving and returning of personal network members

Beate Volker, Gerald Mollenhorst

Contact: b.volker@uva.nl

A growing body of network research shows that- although the composition and the size of personal networks remains relatively stable through time - there is quite some fluctuation on the level of the network members. Is seems as if people retain the functions their relationships fulfill – one needs a friend who helps making an important decision, but it is not so important that this is the same person as years ago. In previous studies, we have shown that indeed, such functions of relationships are usually retained and, furthermore, that many people who are not mentioned anymore in a follow-up interview are nevertheless still in the network. Hence, also if network members do not belong anymore to an inner core of the network, they are still present albeit more in the periphery. This paper builds upon these insights and studies the conditions under which ties that survived with another, more marginal function - and ties that have been dropped come back at later point of measurements. What causes such dormancy of social relationships and why do they sometimes come back in the spotlight? Knowledge about the dormancy and return of personal network members will provide a better understanding of the dynamics of personal networks through the life course. At the same time, it will add significantly to the discussion about issues regarding the collection of reliable longitudinal network data. We use panel information of the SSND (Survey of the Social Networks of the Dutch 1999-2018), while addressing different explanations on the disappearance and return of network members.

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