The Social Networks of Older People: A Cross-National Analysis

Article excerpt

The Social Networks of Older People: A CrossNational Analysis. Howard Litwin (Ed.). Westport, CT: Praeger. 1996. 257 pp. ISBN 0275-95327-0. $59.95 cloth.

Gaining an understanding about other countries can often help to broaden one's own understanding, develop new and interesting questions, and eliminate cultural elitism. In The Social Networks of Older People: A Cross-National Analysis, Howard Litwin brings together the contributions of scholars from Canada, Finland, France, Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The focus of the volume is to "consider the social network construct in a comparative international perspective and to examine its application critically in relation to evolving policies of social care" (p. 2).

The authors represent a diverse collection of studies. However, this diversity is both exemplified and manageable as each author examines the following topics in their respective chapters: methodology, sample, structural analysis, structural variation, social support, network types, interface between the informal networks and the formal sector, implications for policy and practice, and needed future research.

Litwin organizes the book in two sections. In the first section, the researchers utilize an inferred network approach where "they explore relevant network characteristics but do not relate to the social network as a holistic entity that is defined a priori by the respondent" (p. 12). Research that views network features individually and research that examines variables in combination is presented in the first section. In Sweden, Andersson and Sundstrom utilize secondary data analysis of networkrelated data. Exchanges within multigenerational family systems are examined by Attias-Donfut and Rozenkier from France. In Spain, B*land and Zunzunegui explore multivariate analysis of individual network features. Stone and Rosenthal from Canada examine social network types, whereas various network constellations are presented by Melkas and Jylha from Finland. In the second section of the book, Litwin groups together studies that relate to the social network as a predefined social entity. …