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The Impact of Children upon Social Support Networks throughout the Life Course

Masako Ishii-Kuntz and Karen Seccombe
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 51, No. 3 (Aug., 1989), pp. 777-790
DOI: 10.2307/352176
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/352176
Page Count: 14
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The Impact of Children upon Social Support Networks throughout the Life Course
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Abstract

This study examines the effect of presence or absence of children on the social integration and isolation of married people with respect to the support networks of marriage, neighbors, confidants, and other kin. A family life course perspective and elements of social exchange theory are employed to explain changes of social support network involvement over three life stages, defined by the age of the youngest child. Married adults without children are also classified into two groups—those who are considered to be "temporarily" and "permanently" childless. Based on a nationally representative sample, the findings indicate that parents whose children have left home are the most involved, while "permanently" childless adults are found to be the most isolated in the social networks of neighbors and confidants. A higher level of marital support was found among childless people than among parents of younger children. It is concluded that for the childless, weak support from neighbors and confidants may be complemented by stronger marital support.

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