new paper : Network Instability in Times of Stability

new paper : Network Instability in Times of Stability

New paper released today with my long time friend and collaborator Alexandra Marin. Network Instability in Times of Stability, the alternative title might have been, “All Your Networks be Unstable: Studying Instability Has Given us a False Sense of Stability”. Perhaps predictable, but notable insights, personal characteristics (of you and your close friends) do not predict tie dormancy, or frequency or medium of communication, it’s all about the network (geographic and emotionally closeness, role, highly supportive, homophily, and embeddedness).

Personal networks undergo change in response to major life course events. Individual, relational, and network characteristics that influence network instability in the absence of a significant life transition/crisis are less understood. We focus on those ties that transition from active to dormant. Because the shift to dormancy is often interpreted as a reduction in support or social capital, it is considered problematic. This study is based on longitudinal survey data of middle‚Äźclass adults who did not undergo life changes. Even in this context of relative stability, support networks experience rates of dormancy similar to those observed during periods of major upheaval. Tie dormancy is unrelated to individual characteristics, network size and density, or homophily along dimensions other than sex. Frequency and medium of communication are particularly notable as factors that were not related to tie dormancy. Ties were less likely to become dormant if they were geographically or emotionally close, immediate kin or neighbors, highly supportive, the same sex, or more embedded in the network. These findings provide context for how support networks operate when not buffeted by exogenous forces. They provide a baseline for understanding the impact on networks of transitions, trauma, new media, and difficult life circumstances.