Relationships are central to human life strategies and have crucial fitness consequences. Yet, at the same time, they incur significant maintenance costs that are rarely considered in either social psychological or evolutionary studies. Although many social psychological studies have explored their dynamics, these studies have typically focused on a small number of emotionally intense ties, whereas social networks in fact consist of a large number of ties that serve a variety of different functions. In this study, we examined how entire active personal networks changed over 18 months across a major life transition. Family relationships and friendships differed strikingly in this respect. The decline in friendship quality was mitigated by increased effort invested in the relationship, but with a striking gender difference: relationship decline was prevented most by increased contact frequency (talking together) for females but by doing more activities together in the case of males.
Keywords: Emotional closeness; Family; Friendship; Gender differences; Personal networks; Relationship maintenance.