Rethinking Social Relationships in Adulthood: The Differential Investment of Resources Model

Oliver Huxhold, Katherine L. Fiori, Tim Windsor

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Empirical evidence about the development of social relationships across adulthood into late life continues to accumulate, but theoretical development has lagged behind. The Differential Investment of Resources (DIRe) model integrates these empirical advances. The model defines the investment of time and energy into social ties varying in terms of emotional closeness and kinship as the core mechanism explaining the formation and maintenance of social networks. Individual characteristics, acting as capacities, motivations, and skills, determine the amount, direction, and efficacy of the investment. The context (e.g., the living situation) affects the social opportunity structure, the amount of time and energy available, and individual characteristics. Finally, the model describes two feedback loops: (a) social capital affecting the individual’s living situation and (b) different types of ties impacting individual characteristics via social exchanges, social influences, and social evaluations. The proposed model will provide a theoretical basis for future research and hypothesis testing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-82
Number of pages26
Issue number1
Early online date10 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • close relationships
  • individual differences
  • social development
  • well-being


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