Men's vulnerability-women's resilience: From widowhood to late-life repartnering

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Background: The ongoing increase in life expectancy resulting in people living longer after the death of a lifelong spouse along with the stresses of widowhood is likely to increase the phenomenon of repartnering in old age. The aim of this article is to learn about the attributed meanings of late-life repartnering among older repartnered widows and widowers dealing with widowhood. Methods: The experiences of 27 couples (54 participants), in which both partners were widowed, were chosen from two larger studies on late-life repartnering: one took a dyadic perspective (interviewing both partners), and the other took an intergenerational approach (interviewing both partners and offspring). Criterion sampling in both studies used the criteria of widowers who repartnered above age 65 and widows above age 60, remarried or not, living separately, or under the same roof, and who had children and grandchildren from a lifelong marriage that had ended with the death of their spouse. All semi-structured interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed based on grounded theory principles and dyadic analysis adapted to families. Results: Present a grounded model indicating gender differences in dealing with the death of a lifelong spouse. Men tended to experience vulnerability whereas women tended to experience resilience. Conclusions: These findings make an innovative contribution by showing the reversal of gender inequality in old age, and gender differences between widows' and widowers' coping with widowhood, even though both repartnered. They are discussed in light of (critical) feminist gerontology including contribution to theory development and implications for practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-731
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Psychogeriatrics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© International Psychogeriatric Association 2015.


  • (critical) feminist gerontology
  • gender differences
  • old age
  • qualitative research
  • repartnering
  • resilience
  • vulnerability
  • widowhood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Gerontology


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