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Six - Attitudes towards new romantic relationships

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 April 2022

Torbjörn Bildtgård
Affiliation:
Stockholms universitet Institutionen för socialt arbete
Peter Öberg
Affiliation:
Högskolan i Gävle, Sweden
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Summary

In research on ageing and intimacy one area that has received a fair amount of interest is the attitudes of older people towards repartnering. However, this research is quite disparate and the results are hard to sum up. Many studies of older singles have shown overwhelmingly negative attitudes towards forming new relationships, while other studies have shown older people to be very interested in new relationships, although avoiding marriage. The answers depend on who the respondents are and what they are asked about. The relatively recent transition to divorce culture means that for a long time there has been a lack of concepts for talking about non-marital relationships. Also, an investigation into the epistemological preliminaries (Bourdieu, Chamboredon, Passeron & Krais, 1991) of this research reveals that the area is full of assumptions stemming from the wider research agendas that these studies are part of. For example, much research is about widowhood and consequently investigates attitudes towards new relationships as a way of managing widowed life. By framing the question in terms of the problem of widowhood the attitudes of other groups, such as divorcees and never-marrieds, towards (re)marriage and other forms of relationships (dating, cohabitation, LAT) become less visible. This can be increasingly misleading if we consider the growing society of divorcees.

The purpose of this chapter is to investigate the attitudes of older people towards intimate relationships in later life and we ask two central questions: (1) Attitudes to what? For example marriage, dating, a romantic partner, living together or apart? Attitudes may well differ strongly depending on what one is asking about. (2) The attitudes of whom? Women or men? Divorcees, widowed or never married people? Singles, LATs, cohabitants or marrieds? Older people themselves or those in their surroundings, such as children, relatives or the generalised other? Attitudes are likely to depend on who the persons holding the attitudes are and what their experiences are. Finally we consider our Swedish data to update and fill in some of the gaps in previous research. By not focusing solely on marriage we show that older people's interest in repartnering is likely higher than what has been proposed before.

Type
Chapter
Information
Intimacy and Ageing
New Relationships in Later Life
, pp. 75 - 86
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2017

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