Informal Support Networks in a Changing Society – are FamilyBased Networks Being ‘Crowded out’?

Dagmar Kutsar, Kairi Kasearu


Using data from two nationally representative surveys (Estonian Living Conditions survey 1994, n=4,455; Estonian Social Survey 2004, n=8,906), we assess whether informal support networks have changed during the ten year period in Estonia. We hypothesize that during this period due to the establishment of a new welfare system and an overall increase in living standards, on one hand, and diversification of family forms and increased geographic mobility of the population on the other, family support networks have lost their functionality. Our findings show that informal support has decreased between relatives, while mutual helping activities with non-relatives – neighbours, colleagues and friends – have remained almost at the same level. We suggest that the developments in the Estonian society are ‘crowding out’ the instrumental support exchange in the kinship system and empowering social networking with nonrelatives.


informal support networks; support exchange; social capital; welfare state

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