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Humans are social animals and the interpersonal bonds formed between them are crucial for their development and well being in a society. These relationships are usually structured into several layers (Dunbar's layers of friendship) depending on their significance in an individual's life with closest friends and family being the most important ones taking major part of their time and communication effort. However, we have little idea how the initiation and termination of these relationships occurs across the lifespan. Mobile phones, in particular, have been used extensively to shed light on the different types of social interactions between individuals and to explore this, we analyse a national cellphone database to determine how and when changes in close relationships occur in the two genders. In general, membership of this inner circle of intimate relationships is extremely stable, at least over a three-year period. However, around 1-4% of alters change every year, with the rate of change being higher among 17-21 year olds than older adults. Young adult females terminate more of their opposite-gender relationships, while older males are more persistent in trying to maintain relationships in decline. These results emphasise the variability in relationship dynamics across age and gender, and remind us that individual differences play an important role in the structure of social networks. Overall, our study provides a holistic understanding of the dynamic nature of close relationships during different stages of human life.

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Journal article


Sci Rep

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Aged, Animals, Female, Friends, Humans, Individuality, Interpersonal Relations, Male, Sexual Partners