Preparing for the Old Age: Singlehood, Social Networks, and Social Support among Middle-aged Never-married Adults in Hong Kong

Project: Research project

Project Details


The proposed study aims to examine the impact of singlehood on social networks and implications for old age preparation among middle-aged Chinese adults (aged 40-59). It is of both theoretical and policy significance.
First, the study contributes to understanding how life course non-transition shapes social networks, a research topic that has received relatively less attention. Life course transitions tend to be prescribed by age-associated norms. In many societies, getting married at a certain age (normally before the middle age) is considered one of the important markers of life course
transition. Singlehood in the middle age represents a non-transition in one’s life course. Previous social network studies have documented changes to the structure and composition of social networks due to life course transitions, Stability in social networks for individuals who do not experience the transitions is assumed. However, this assumption has seldom been taken to a direct examination.
Second, the study contributes to understanding the role of social networks in perceived old-age support and preparation for later life among the never-married. Family has been conceived as an important source of old-age support in Chinese societies and the conception of family support for old age in academic research and social policies is largely premised on marriage
(intergenerational care and spousal support). The rising trend of people remaining single throughout their lives and longevity of human life prompts closer research attention to the social connections and support availability of the never-married in anticipation of aging. However, existing research on this issue is relatively scant.
To fill the research gaps, the study will collect both qualitative (in-depth interviews) and quantitative (survey) data to address two research questions: (1) How would singlehood shape the social support networks of never-married middle-aged adults? and (2) How do the structure and resource configurations of social networks influence the perceived availability of old-age support and old-age preparation among never-married middle-aged adults? Research findings are expected to shed light on the impact of life course non-transitions on social networks and subsequent impacts on preparation for later life. They will also inform policy makers of the diverse and changing needs of prospective cohorts of older adults, facilitating the formulation of appropriate policies to enable the Hong Kong elderly to “age in place”. Moreover, baseline data will be yielded for future follow-up studies on changes in social networks and old-age preparation as individuals progress closer to old age.
Effective start/end date1/01/2431/12/25


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