This chapter examines differences in social networks of those aged 50 and over in 13 European countries using the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) 2001 dataset. The research questions: What are the frequencies of family contact among the sample, with particular reference to the Eastern European states included (Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic)? What is the relationship between levels of family contact and non-kin social networks, with reference to comparable differences between Eastern and Western European countries?
Frequency of family contact was found to be on average higher in the Eastern European group. However, when ‘Western European’ countries were divided into Scandinavian (grouped as ‘Northern’), Mediterranean (‘Southern’) and all other (‘Western’) countries, significant differences were found in the frequency of face-to-face family contact between Eastern European and North-Western European countries (excluding Austria), whilst the differences between Southern and Eastern European countries were less striking. Although, family networks in Eastern Europe appear to remain on average stronger than North-Western European countries, the data suggests that the Eastern European context is distinguishable from that of the more strongly family-orientated Mediterranean model, where there is a higher proportion of people in the sample living with an adult child and seeing at least one close family member (other than spouse) daily.
At the same time, a negative association was found between family contact and variables indicative of other social networks, i.e. numbers of close friends and social participation.
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