The personal network: Main objective
The main objective was to identify the networks that reflected the socially active relationships of the elderly respondents in the core and the outer layers of the larger network. In choosing a method to identify the personal networks, several criteria were set regarding who was to be included in the network. First, the network composition had to be as varied as possible, implying that every type of relationship deserved the same chance to be included in the network. This criterion led to a domain-specific approach in the network identification, using seven formal types of relationships (see below). A second objective was to include all the network members the elderly respondents had regular contact with, thus identifying their socially active relationships. However, the aim was not to include everybody they had contact with. To avoid including people they had regular contact with by definition (such as all their colleagues and all the other members of their bridge club), the criterion of the importance of the relationship was added. The respondents could only nominate the network members who they had regular contact with and who were important to them. This enabled them, for example, to nominate the two colleagues they had relatively close contact with and leave the others out of the network. This domain-contact procedure (Van Tilburg, 1995) is an adaptation of the one developed by Cochran et al. (1990).
Seven domains of network members are identified. In addition, respondents could identify 'forgotten' contacts. The maximum number to be identified is 80. Per domain there is also a maximum, specified as follows:
- household members, including the partner: 12
- children and their partners: 25 minus the number of network members identified earlier
- other family members: 40 minus the number of network members identified earlier
- neighbors: 50 minus the number of network members identified earlier
- contacts through work and school: 60 minus the number of network members identified earlier
- members of organizations: 70 minus the number of network members identified earlier
- others: 80 minus the number of network members identified earlier
- "forgotten" contacts: 80 minus the number of network members identified earlier
Thus, when fewer people in a particular domain are nominated than the maximum allows, this difference is added to the maximum for the following domain. Only very small number of respondents reached the maximum set in a specific domain. However, none nominated the maximum number (80). Therefore, respondents who reached the maximum in a specific domain had the opportunity to nominate more persons in the domain of "forgotten" contacts.
For each identified network member and its relationship with th respondent a number of questions were asked.