Trajectories of Adaptation to Spousal Bereavement in Old Age

Spahni, Stefanie; Bennett, Kate M.; Morselli, Davide; Perrig-Chiello, Pasqualina (12 July 2016). Trajectories of Adaptation to Spousal Bereavement in Old Age (Unpublished). In: 24th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development (ISSBD). Vilnius, Lithuania. 10.07.-14.07.2016.

Spousal bereavement in later life is a high probability life event and traditionally it is also thought to be one of the most stressful. Bereaved individuals are typically characterised by lower well-being, however, more recently studies have demonstrated that there are substantial individual differences in both the experience of stress-related effects, and the trajectory of psychological adaptation to the event. Further, work has suggested that intrapersonal resources might be the main reason for the differences. The data presented stem from a longitudinal survey, which is part of the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research ‘LIVES – Overcoming vulnerability: life course perspective’, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Our analyses are based on results of an exploratory latent profile analysis performed at the first assessment in 2012 among 402 widowed participants (228 women, 174 men) aged between 60 and 89 (mean age 74.41 years), who lost their partner within the last 5 years, after having been married for on average 45 years. Three different classes of adaptation in terms of depressive symptoms, hopelessness, loneliness, life satisfaction, and subjective health were identified: ‘resilients’ (54% of the sample), ‘copers’ (39%) and ‘vulnerables’ (7%). Resilient participants were more likely to be women and for longer time widowed than copers. They also reported higher levels of spousal social support than the copers, but not marital happiness, or social support more generally. In addition, resilient participants reported higher levels of psychological resilience, extraversion, openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness and lower levels of neuroticism in contrast to both, copers and vulnerables. The vulnerables, in contrast, reported a more negative emotional valence concerning loss experience compared to the other two groups. The aim of the present contribution is to shed light on the trajectories of these participants two years after the first data wave, and examine what predicts stability or change in group affiliation. The best fitting model of the latent transition analysis shows that the majority of bereaved respondents remained in the same profile over the two observations, but that there were also a minor part of participants who moved to higher or lower adapted profiles. The evaluation of the trajectories of adaptation to this critical life event and knowledge about the variables that enhance the adaptation over time is essential for prevention and intervention in social and clinical services.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Developmental Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Spahni, Stefanie and Perrig-Chiello, Pasqualina


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Salome Irina Rahel Bötschi

Date Deposited:

21 Jun 2017 10:23

Last Modified:

21 Jun 2017 10:23


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