Volume 34 - Article 35 | Pages 995–1036  

Social network indices in the Generations and Gender Survey: An appraisal

By Pearl A. Dykstra, Christoph Bühler, Tineke Fokkema, Gregor Petrič, Rok Platinovšek, Tina Kogovšek, Valentina Hlebec


Background: In this contribution we critically appraise the social network indices in the Generations and Gender Survey (GGS).

Objective: After discussing the rationale for including social network indices in the GGS, we provide descriptive information on social network characteristics and an overview of substantive questions that have been addressed using GGS social network data: antecedents and consequences of demographic behaviour, care, and differences in well-being. We identify topics that have received relatively little attention in GGS research so far, despite the availability of novel and appropriate social network data. We end with a discussion of what is unique about the social network indices in the GGS.

Methods: The descriptive information on social network characteristics is based on empirical analyses of GGS data, and an experimental pilot study. The overview of GGS research using social network indices is based on a library search. The identification of what is unique about the social network indices in the GGS is based on a comparison with the European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS), the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement (SHARE), and the International Social Survey Program (ISSP).

Results: Results show a high representation of family members in the social networks, and confirm the adequacy of using a cap of five names for network-generating questions. GGS research using the social network indices has largely focused on determinants of fertility behaviour, intergenerational linkages in families, and downward care transfers.

Conclusions: Topics that have received relatively little attention are demographic behaviours other than those related to parenthood, upward transfers of practical support, ties with siblings, and stepfamily ties. Social network indices in the GGS show a high degree of overlap with those in other international surveys. The unique features are the inventory of family ties ever born and still living, and the assessment of network members’ normative expectations. The GGS holds a wealth of social network data that warrants a myriad of future investigations.

Author's Affiliation

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