Psychological adaptation to spousal loss in old age: The role of personality

Spahni, Stefanie; Hutchison, Sara; Perrig-Chiello, Pasqualina (6 September 2013). Psychological adaptation to spousal loss in old age: The role of personality. In: The 16th European Conference on Developmental Psychology. Lausanne, Switzerland. 03.-07.09.2013.

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Spousal loss is an inevitable critical life event for most individuals in old age, mostly associated with a negative impact on various well-being measures, ie. lower life satisfaction, higher rates of loneliness and depressive symptoms compared to married peers. While the negative effects on well-being are well documented in literature, the modifying factors accounting for the large variability in adaptation to loss are discussed controversially. The potential relevance of personality in the adaptation process has rarely been examined and findings regarding the role of time since loss are contradictory. Based on a vulnerability-stress-model this contribution aims a) to compare psychological well-being of bereaved individuals with married counterparts and b) to investigate the protective effects of different personality traits (Big Five, resilience), and the role of time since loss for adaptation in terms of life satisfaction, loneliness and depression. Data from a questionnaire study about the loss of a spouse in middle and old age in the German- and French-speaking parts of Switzerland are reported. The study is part of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES (Swiss National Science Foundation). The sample consists of 351 widowed persons (39% men, widowed since 0 - 5 years), and 605 married controls (50% men), aged 60 - 89 years. Group comparisons reveal the detrimental effect of spousal bereavement on all indicators of psychological adaptation. Results from hierarchical regression analyses show furthermore, that the effect of spousal loss on all psychological outcomes is moderated by personality traits. Separate analyses with the group of bereaved individuals suggest, that the protective effect of personality varies by the time passed since loss. Our results contribute to a better understanding of the variability in psychological adaptation to spousal loss in old age and give hints for counselling practice.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Developmental Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Spahni, Stefanie; Hutchison, Sara and Perrig-Chiello, Pasqualina


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology




Stefanie Spahni

Date Deposited:

22 Sep 2014 11:48

Last Modified:

13 Dec 2014 00:02




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