The Scientific Study of People Who Are Single:
An Annotated Bibliography

Bella M. DePaulo
Chair, Academic Advisory Board of the Spectrum Institute
Research and Policy Division of the
American Association for Single People (AASP)

January 2, 2004


9. Social Networks and Patterns of Interaction

What do we know about the social networks and the patterns of social interaction of people who are single? Many of the most important questions have not yet been adequately addressed. For example, Who are the people who are especially important to singles? Compared to people who are married, do single people have more ties with other people or fewer? Do they have relatively more ties with certain categories of people than with others (e.g., friends vs relatives)? Are there differences in the ways that single vs married people develop social ties?

How do patterns of social interaction change as people in a social network become coupled or married, become parents, or become separated, divorced, or widowed? Do couples socialize mostly with other couples, and parents with other parents? Do life singles differ from people who marry in the likelihood that they will maintain friendships and other ties over the course of a lifetime? How important is geographical proximity in the maintaining of social ties and is that changing?

How are the social ties of people who are single regarded by others? To what extent are those ties valued, relative to ties with a spouse? What are the implications of the answers to these questions, both for singles and for couples? For example, are employers less reluctant to ask their single employees to relocate? Do couples become especially focused on each other, relative to other people, when they marry? If so, what are the implications for those who become parents? For example, is the transition to parenting easier or more difficult for couples who have maintained fewer ties with other people? How do patterns of social interaction differ in old age for those who have always been single, compared to those who are or who once were married?


Acock, A. C., & Hurlbert, J. S. (1993). Social networks, marital status, and well-being. Social Networks, 15, 309-334.

Berkman, L. F., & Syme, L. (1979). Social networks, host resistance, and mortality: A nine-year follow-up study of Alameda County residents. American Journal of Epidemiology, 109, 186-204.

Bost, K. K., Cox, M. J., Burchinal, M. R., & Payne, C. (2002). Structural and supportive changes in couples’ family and friendship networks across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 517-531.

Bryant, C. M., & Conger, R. D. (1999). Marital success and domains of social support in long-term relationships: Does the influence of network members ever end? Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 437-450.

Burger, E., & Milardo, R. M. (1995). Marital interdependence and social networks. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 12, 403-415.

Fischer, C. S. (1982). To dwell among friends: Personal networks in town and city. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Fischer, C. S., Jackson, R. M., Stueve, C. A., Gerson, K., & Jones, L. M. (1977). Networks and places: Social relations in urban settings. NY: The Free Press.

Hess, B. B., & Soldo, B. J. (1985). Husband and wife networks. In W. J. Sauer & R. T. Coward (Eds.), Social support networks and the care of the elderly: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 67-92). New York: Springer.

Kalmijn, M., & Bernasco, W. (2001). Joint and separated lifestyles in couple relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63, 639-654.

Kearns, J. N., & Leonard, K. E. (2001). Social network involvement and marital quality over the marital transition. Poster presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association. San Francisco, CA.

Kipnis, L. (2001). Against love: A treatise on the tyranny of two. The New York Times. October 14, 2001.

Milardo, R. M. (1982). Friendship networks in developing relationships: Converging and diverging social environments. Social Psychology Quarterly, 45, 162-172.

Milardo, R. M. (1987). Changes in social networks of women and men following divorce: A review. Journal of Family Issues, 8, 78-96.

Milardo, R. M., Johnson, M. P., & Huston, T. L. (1983). Developing close relationships: Changing patterns of interaction between pair members and social networks. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 964-976.

Milardo, R. M., & Wellman, B. (1992). The personal is social. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 9, 339-342.

Morgan, D., Carder, P., & Neal, M. (1997). Are some relationships more useful than others? The value of similar others in the networks of recent widows. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 14, 745-759.

Pinquart, M., & Sorensen, S. (2000). Influences of socioeconomic status, social network, and competence on subjective well-being in later life: A meta-analysis. Psychology and Aging, 15, 187-224.

Rands, M., & Levinger, G. (1979). Implicit theories of relationship: An intergenerational study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 645-661.

Rubin, L. B. (1985). Just friends: The role of friendship in our lives. NY: Harper & Row. (Chapter 6. From singles to couples and back again: A rocky road for friends. Chapter 7. On marriage and friendship.)

Seccombe, K., & Ishii-Kuntz, M. (1994). Gender and social relationships among the never-married. Sex Roles, 30, 585-603.

Sedikides, C., Olsen, N., & Reis, H. T. (1993). Relationships as natural categories. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 71-82.

Shweder, R. A., Jensen, L. A., & Goldstein, W. M. (1995). Who sleeps by whom revisited: A method for extracting the moral goods implicit in practice. In J. J. Goodnow, P. J. Miller, & F. Kessel (Eds.), New directions for child and adolescent development: Cultural practices as contexts for development (pp.21-39). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass. ("Sacred couple," p. 32)

Snow, D. A., Robinson, C., & McCall, P. (1991). ‘Cooling out’ men in singles bars and nightclubs: Observations on the interpersonal survival strategies of women in public places. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 19, 423-449.

Surra, C. A. (1985). Courtship types: Variations in interdependence between partners and social networks. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 357-375.

Treas, J., & Giesen, D. (2000). Sexual infidelity among married and cohabiting Americans. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 48-60. (Network ties and infidelity)

van der Poel, M. (1993). Personal networks: A rational-choice explanation of their size and composition. Berwyn, PA: Swets & Zeitlinger.

Vaughan, D. (1986). Uncoupling: Turning points in intimate relationships. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Verbrugge, L. M. (1983). A research note on adult friendship contact: A dyadic perspective. Social Forces, 62, 78-83.

Wade, B. (1995, May 28). Practical traveler: When singles seek matches. The New York Times, Sec 5.

Wellman, B. (1985). Domestic work, paid work, and net work. In S. Duck & D. Perlman (Eds.), Understanding personal relationships: An interdisciplinary approach (pp. 159-191). London: Sage.

Wellman, B. (1996). Are personal communities local? A Dumptarian reconsideration. Social Networks, 18, 347-354.

Wellman, B. (1999). Networks in the global village: Life in contemporary communities. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Wellman, B., & Berkowitz, S.D. (Eds.). (1997). Social structures: A network approach. Greenwich. CT: JAI Press.

Wellman, B., & Wellman, B. (1992). Domestic affairs and network relations. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 9, 385-409.

Wellman, B., Wong, T. Y., Tindall, D., & Nazer, N. (1996). A decade of network change: Turnover, persistence and stability in personal communities. Social Networks, 19, 27-50.

Yager, J. (1999). Friendshifts: The power of friendship and how it changes our lives (2nd ed., Rev.) Stamford, CT: Hannacroix Creek Books. (Chapter 7. Marriage and friendship. Sections on Divorce and friendship, Widowhood and friendship.)


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