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The personal communities of older widows : social relations, personal agency and flexibility in later life

Collins, T 2015, 'The personal communities of older widows : social relations, personal agency and flexibility in later life' , in: Social Relationships and Friendships : Perceptions, Influences on Human Development and Psychological Effects , Psychology Research Progress , Nova Science Publishers, New York, pp. 77-121.

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The loss of a spouse or partner is a common experience in later life, especially for older women. Social support is thought to help cushion such events and assist successive transitions. This longitudinal study examines the significance of personal communities in managing the transition of later life widowhood. Qualitative interviews were conducted with twenty-six older widows over an eighteen month period. Personal community diagrams were used to identify the structure of the women’s personal communities, in order to develop a typology. The meaning of these relationships were explored further through the women’s experiences of Christmas and their Christmas cards. Content and thematic analysis revealed four core types of personal community among the older widows in this study, including different combinations of family, friends and others. The continuity and discontinuity of these social relationships, as well as the re-arrangement of family and friendship practices, illustrate the multifaceted and dynamic nature of personal communities during the transition of later life widowhood. The findings also demonstrate the diverse, complex, and often paradoxical qualities of social relationships within structurally comparable personal community types, which is often compounded by multiple transitions alongside widowhood. The study of personal communities over time reveals that the management of transition incorporates not only social relations, but also personal agency and flexibility. These collective components appear to be more important to adjustment during later life widowhood than personal community type. The findings re-frame the existing discourse on later life widowhood and social support.

Item Type: Book Section
Editors: Bryant, MB
Themes: Health and Wellbeing
Schools: Schools > School of Health Sciences
Publisher: Nova Science Publishers
Refereed: Yes
Series Name: Psychology Research Progress
ISBN: 9781634828208
Funders: Non funded research
Depositing User: T Collins
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2015 17:59
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2016 13:09

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