From attitudes to social networks: National gender-role attitudes and gender differences in late-life social relationships

Ella Cohn-Schwartz, Alina Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies often find gender differences in social networks in later life, but are these findings universal, or do they differ in various cultural contexts? To address this research gap, the current study examines the association between gender differences in social relationships and country-level gender-role attitudes. We combined data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) of individuals aged 50 years and older with country-level data on gender-role attitudes from the European Values Survey (EVS) for 15 European countries. We estimated a series of multivariate hierarchical regression models that predicted the size of the personal social network, its emotional closeness, and the proportion of the spouse, children, and friends in the network. The results indicated gender differences in social network characteristics. Women reported larger social networks and were more likely to have larger proportions of children and friends but smaller proportions of the spouse in their social networks. The magnitude of gender differences was associated with country-level gender-role attitudes. In countries with more egalitarian gender-role attitudes, women had larger networks with a larger proportion of friends compared to men. In countries with more traditional gender-role attitudes, women had larger proportions of their children and spouse in their social networks and had emotionally closer networks. Our findings suggest that the societal context and opportunity structures for social interactions play an important role in shaping the structure of women's and men's social relationships in later life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-87
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Networks
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • Country-comparative study
  • Cross-national
  • Family
  • Gender inequality
  • Later life
  • Social ties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (all)
  • Psychology (all)


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