Marital split-up and widowhood in old age: Differential impact on psychological and social well-being

Knöpfli, Bina; Perrig-Chiello, Pasqualina (10 July 2014). Marital split-up and widowhood in old age: Differential impact on psychological and social well-being (Unpublished). In: 28th International Congress of Applied Psychology. Paris, Frankreich. 8.-13.07.2014.

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Marital split-up and spousal loss are among the most stressful critical life events. Numerous studies have documented their detrimental effects on well-being, yet the large individual differences in psychological adaptation are still not well understood. Whereas in old age bereavement is normative and can be anticipated, divorce is an “off-time” transition for this age group. In contrast to bereavement which has been amply studied, research on later life divorce is still missing despite the increasing relevance of the topic due to the significant increase of divorces in older age. Based on a modified and extended view of Amato’s divorce-stress-adjustment model (2000), the aim of this contribution is to explore the differential impact of marital split-up and widowhood in older age on psychological (life satisfaction) and social well-being (social loneliness), and the adaptation to these critical life events. Our analyses are based on data gathered in a questionnaire study, which is part of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES. In a first step we compared three groups of individuals aged 60 to 75 years: a sample of 251 persons with a marital split-up (127 women; 123 men), a sample of 270 widowed persons (170 women; 100 men), and a group of 221 continuously married people (110 women; 111 men), which served as control group. In a second step, we investigated the role of socio-demographic variables, intrapersonal and interpersonal resources and variables of the context of loss as predictors for the psychological adaptation to a marital break-up and loss in old age. First results by ANCOVA indicate significant differences with regard to life satisfaction among the three groups, with divorced persons with the lowest scores, followed by the bereaved ones, and the married controls with the highest. Regarding social loneliness, divorced individuals report higher social loneliness than the bereaved group and the married controls (no significant difference between widowed and the married). In both loss groups, financial and intrapersonal resources, as well as the emotional valence of the loss are the most important predictors for the psychological and social adaptation. However, happiness in the past relationship is an important resource regarding the indicators for adaptation for the widowers, but not for individuals with a marital dissolution.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)


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

UniBE Contributor:

Knöpfli, Bina and Perrig-Chiello, Pasqualina


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology


[4] Swiss National Science Foundation






Bina Knöpfli

Date Deposited:

18 Mar 2015 15:36

Last Modified:

18 Mar 2015 15:36




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