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Informal Caregiving and Social Capital: A Social Network Perspective

A large literature emphasizes the importance of social relationships during the caregiving process. Yet these issues are seldom presented in a social network framework that examines the structure of caregivers' personal networks. In this study, I examine how older caregivers experience changes in personal network structure. Using two waves from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, I investigate whether caregivers are more or less likely to exhibit bridging or bonding capital potential compared to noncaregivers. I find that older adults transitioning into caregiving are more likely to develop the ability to bridge social ties within their personal networks than noncaregivers despite potential constraints in their personal freedom. Caregivers in the latter stages, meanwhile, do not differ from noncaregivers in terms of network change. These findings have implications for older adults' potential to pool resources across social domains as well as negotiate stress and well-being during the caregiving process. 

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Research on Aging
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