PhD Candidate Jonathan Koltai and Professor Markus Schafer on Social Networks and the Mistreatment of Older Adults

November 14, 2018 by Nico Golinski

PhD Graduate Jonathan Koltai and Professor Markus Schafer published an article in the Journals of Gerontology (Series B) studying the impact of social network density on the risk of mistreatment among older adults. While previous studies have shown that social networks characterized by unconnected ties can offer benefits to older adults in terms of increasing a sense of autonomy and power, this study finds that dense social networks also have benefits, most particularly by lowering the older adult's risk of mistreatment. Jonathan Koltai obtained his PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in early 2018. His dissertation focused on complexities in the relationships between socioeconomic status, stress exposure, and psychological well-being. Jonathan is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Bocconi University of Milan, Italy. Markus Schafer is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on health and aging.

We have posted the citation and the abstract of the article below. The full text is available through the University of Toronto Library Portal here.

Schafer, Markus and Jonathan Koltai. 2015. "Does Embeddedness Protect? Personal Network Density and Vulnerability to Mistreatment Among Older Adults." Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 70(4):597-606.

Objectives. This study considers the association between personal network density and risk of elder mistreatment among American adults.

Method. Using egocentric network data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, we employ logistic and negative binomial regression to predict recent experience of elder mistreatment. We further unpack the density mistreatment association by linking perpetrators to the victim’s network and by assessing their position within its structure.

Results. As hypothesized, older adults with dense networks had a lower risk of elder mistreatment. Interestingly, the perpetrators of these harmful acts were often found within seniors’ close networks—though there was little evidence to suggest that perpetrators themselves were poorly embedded in the network.

Discussion. Results highlight how network-level phenomena can operate distinctively from dyadic mistreatment processes. Dense personal networks seem to provide structural protection against elder mistreatment, even as many offensive acts are committed by those that are close to the victim and relatively well embedded in their network.

Read the full article here.