Rebuilding the network: New relationships in widowhood


  • This article is a revised version of a paper presented at the VIIth International Conference on Personal Relationships in Groningen, The Netherlands, July 1994. The data upon which it is based were collected in the context of the research program “Living Arrangements and Social Networks of Older Adults.” This program of research is conducted at the Department of Sociology and the Department of Social Research Methodology of Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, and The Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute in the Hague. The program is funded by NESTOR, The Netherlands Program for Research on Aging.

Address correspondence to Simone Lamme, Department of Sociology and Social Gerontology, Vrije Universitait, De Boelelaan 1081c, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


This study examined the formation of nonkin relationships in widowhood, using personal network data from 548 older men and women who lost a partner through death fewer than 10 years earlier. Relationships established after the death of the spouse were cited by 27.6% of the respondents. New relationships with neighbors were cited in particular. New relationships were more often nominated by women than by men. Formation of new relationships was strongly and positively associated with the duration of widowhood, the presence of a new partner, and having put effort into seeking new relationships. The findings suggest that, to gain a proper understanding of why some widowed individuals form new relationships and others do not, knowledge is required about the quality of the social network prior to widowhood.