Rözer, Jesper, Gerald Mollenhorst and Beate Völker. (2015). Romantic relationship formation, maintenance and changes in personal networks. Advances in life course research, 23: 86-97.
summary: According to the social withdrawal hypothesis, a personal network becomes smaller when a person starts dating, cohabitates and marries. This phenomenon is widely established in the literature. However, these studies were usually done with cross-sectional data and hence, the results might suffer from selection bias. As a consequence, it is still unclear whether or how personal networks actually change after the formation of a romantic relationship. It is also unclear how long and to what extent social withdrawal continues. To overcome these shortcomings, we employ a large-scale panel dataset and examine how the size, composition and other characteristics of personal networks change after relationship formation. The results underscore that the association between romantic relationships and changes in personal networks is more dynamic than previous studies suggested. For example, after relationship formation people show an increase in personal contacts with family members and a decrease in contacts with friends, while a reversed pattern is observed for relationship maintenance. These network changes suggest that people smoothly adapt their social networks to the demands and constraints of each phase of a romantic relationship. However, they do so without a decline in network size such that a fear of social withdrawal seems to be unjustified.