The Convoy Model: Explaining Social Relations From a Multidisciplinary Perspective

Purpose of the Study: Social relations are a key aspect of aging and the life course. In this paper, we trace the scientific origins of the study of social relations, focusing in particular on research grounded in the convoy model. Design and Methods: We first briefly review and critique influential historical studies to illustrate how the scientific study of social relations developed. Next, we highlight early and current findings grounded in the convoy model that have provided key insights into theory, method, policy, and practice in the study of aging. Results: Early social relations research, while influential, lacked the combined approach of theoretical grounding and methodological rigor. Nevertheless, previous research findings, especially from anthropology, suggested the importance of social relations in the achievement of positive outcomes. Considering both life span and life course perspectives and grounded in a multidisciplinary perspective, the convoy model was developed to unify and consolidate scattered evidence while at the same time directing future empirical and applied research. Early findings are summarized, current evidence presented, and future directions projected. Implications: The convoy model has provided a useful framework in the study of aging, especially for understanding predictors and consequences of social relations across the life course.