Patterns of psychological adaptation to spousal bereavement in old age

TitrePatterns of psychological adaptation to spousal bereavement in old age
Type de publicationJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuteursSpahni, S, Morselli, D, Perrig-Chiello, P, Bennett, K
Mots-clésbereavement, psychological adjustment, resources, variability, well-being

Background: While the negative effects of spousal bereavement on well-being are well documented in empirical research, the large individual differences in psychological adaptation are still not well understood. Objective: This contribution aims to identify patterns of psychological adaptation to spousal loss in old age and to shed light on the role of intra- and interpersonal resources and contextual factors as discriminant variables among these patterns. Methods: The data stem from a cross-sectional questionnaire study of 402 widowed individuals (228 women, 174 men) aged between 60 and 89 years (mean age 74.41 years), who lost their partner within the last 5 years, and 618 married individuals, who served as controls (312 women, 306 men; mean age 73.82 years). Results: The exploratory latent profile analysis of the well-being outcomes of depressive symptoms, hopelessness, loneliness, life satisfaction and subjective health revealed three different groups in the widowed sample: ‘resilients' (54% of the sample), ‘copers' (39%) and ‘vulnerables' (7%). The most important variables for group allocation were intrapersonal resources - psychological resilience and the Big Five personality traits - but also the quality of the former relationship and how the loss was experienced. Conclusion: Successful adaptation to spousal loss is primarily associated with high scores in psychological resilience and extraversion and low scores in neuroticism. Our results shed light on the variability in psychological adaptation and underline the important role of intrapersonal resources in facing spousal loss in old age.

Refereed DesignationRefereed