Using egocentric network data from the University of California Social Networks Study (1,136 respondents; 11,536 alters), this study examines how difficult ties—an unexplored form of social negativity—are associated with well-being. Findings show that well-being is affected by the quality of the relationship rather than its presence in the network. Having a nondifficult partner is associated with lower loneliness compared to having no partner, but having no partner and having a difficult partner are related to similar levels of loneliness. Likewise, having difficult adult children and having no adult children are associated with reporting greater psychological distress than having nondifficult adult children. Consistent with the stress process model, the negative association of a difficult partner with well-being is buffered when that partner is otherwise supportive and when the other ties in the network are supportive. However, that association is amplified when the other ties are also difficult.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by National Institute on Aging Grant R01 AG041955-01.
© American Sociological Association 2020.
- difficult ties
- egocentric networks
- personal relationships
- social support