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Visitor (1 September 2002 - 14 December 2002)
I was at NIAS for the period from September 1, 2002 until December 14, 2002. Rather than trying to completely accomplish one task during this time, I made progress on several. These included data analysis, writing, and editorial activities.
One of my particular objectives while I was at the Institute was to examine the ramifications of the length of time people have known their friends, neighbours and other non-kin associates. I became interested in it because older men in the United States have typically known their network members longer than older women. I wondered if this fact was associated with women having more vital, more supportive relationships. Prior to arriving in the Netherlands, I had expected to analyse a Northern California data set. Once I got to NIAS I was fortunate to be able to collaborate with Jenny Gierveld to do a US-Dutch comparative study using the excellent data from the NESTOR project. This modestly changed my focus. Our analyses have generally helped us identify factors that predict who will have shorter duration relationships (e.g., people who have moved recently).
In terms of editing and writing, I moved forward on multiple fronts. In Right On! European and Canadian Studies of Loneliness Among the Elderly I placed a set of four major longitudinal European and Canadian investigations in the larger context of research on loneliness. In a second paper on loneliness, Dan Russell and I synthesised the literature showing an association between loneliness and poor health, arguing that loneliness has a causal role in poor physical health. Loneliness was not my only concern. The chapter I drafted with Steve Duck reviews twentieth-century trends in the study of personal relationships. The dominant view in the literature on close relationships is that their stability and success largely reflect the characteristics of the partners in the relationship and the way they relate to one another. In the Special Issue of Personal Relationships I am editing with Catherine Surra, we challenge this perspective.
While there were some modest adjustments in what I expected to do while I was at NIAS, overall I worked toward the goals I had originally set and feel I accomplished more than I had anticipated.
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