Social Network Types Among Older Adults: A Multidimensional Approach

Theories of social relations suggest that individuals' personal networks reflect multiple aspects of relationships, and that different constellations are more or less supportive of well-being. Using data from the Berlin Aging Study (N = 516; age, M = 85 years), we derived network types that reflect information about structure, function, and quality, and we examined their association with well-being. A cluster analysis revealed six network types: diverse–supported, family focused, friend focused–supported, friend focused–unsupported, restricted–nonfriends–unsatisfied, and restricted–nonfamily–unsupported. Well-being was predicted differentially by the six types. Although the oldest-old individuals (85 years of age or older) were overrepresented in the friend-focused–supported and restricted types, age did not moderate the association of types with well-being. A holistic consideration of structure, function, and quality of social networks in old age offers unique insights.