Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Session #1 – Integrating Social Networks and the Life Course

The “Linked Lives” Principle in Life Course Studies

Deborah Carr
Rutgers University

This talk will provide a brief overview and historical foundations of the four key themes of the life course paradigm (historical context, agency, timing, linked lives). I then describe ways that the concept of “linked lives” influences and enriches contemporary sociological research, by moving beyond the individual as the sole unit of analysis and studying individuals as embedded in larger networks of actors. I focus on one specific substantive domain, health and well-being, to demonstrate the importance of considering the complex ways that individual and network (e.g., spouse, child, and neighborhood) characteristics affect physical and mental health over the life course. I will conclude by highlighting methodological advances and challenges, and new data collection efforts that may facilitate “linked lives” approaches, including the collection of dyadic and family-level data in major studies of health and aging (e.g., DUST, PSID, and WLS).

Paper and presentation coming soon.

Life Cycle and Network Advantage in Organizations: Peak and Transitional Ages

Ron Burt
Booth School of Business, University of Chicago

I look into ways that age interacts with the competitive advantage social networks can provide.  We know certain people benefit more than others.  I ask three questions to learn whether age is a factor contributing to the differences:  Over the life-cycle, when is network advantage most valuable?  How are those valuable periods visible in the networks providing advantage?  How is the achievement associated with network advantage contingent on the peak and transitional periods on a manager’s life?  Illustrative answers to these questions are provided using data on managers in banking, financial services, engineering, HR, software, and supply chain.

Please click each link to view the PDF: Presentation / Paper

The Role of Kin in Support Networks over the Life Course

Claude S. Fischer
University of California, Berkeley

The role of kin within support networks varies across individuals, life stages, and life events. Research in personal networks has often insufficiently taken into account the differences between kin and nonkin ties. This talk will provide an overview of the kin-related issues that are being addressed by a survey project currently in the field, the UCNets Study. UCNets is a survey of 600 21-to-30-year-olds and of 600 50-to-70 year-olds focused on describing in detail, through several name-eliciting questions, respondents’ personal networks and the life events respondents are going through. We anticipate three interviews with each respondent over five years. One key issue is understanding whether, when, and for what purposes people in these two very different life stages turn to kin rather than nonkin. In general, to what extent are available kin actually play a significant role in respondents’ networks? In response to what sorts of life events and life course changes are kin favored? What are latent rules for drawing on kin for support and how do those differ for nonkin ties? For example, to what extent do respondents tolerate difficult and demanding kin compared to nonkin? Answers to these sorts of questions can then be conditioned by characteristics of the respondents – age, of course, but also, class, gender, labor force status, marital status, and ethnicity.

Please click each link to view the PDF: Presentation / Paper

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