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Nine - Consequences for social network and support structures

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

The previous chapter considered repartnering from the perspective of what a new partner could contribute in terms of social support. The purpose of this chapter is instead to investigate how the introduction of a new partner affects the wider social network. We ask how a new partner is accepted into the older individual's family and social network and we ask how these existing relationships are renegotiated as a consequence. In the chapter we show that in most cases a new partner is integrated into the older individual's social network. Second, we show that the partner is viewed as a resource for autonomy both for the older individual and for their children. Third, we show that a new partner tends to replace children and friends as the preferred provider of different forms of social support. Finally, we discuss different theoretical ways of understanding older people's social support networks and relate these models to our survey data.

The impact of life transitions on linked lives

Our starting assumption is that interdependent lives (cmpr. Elder, 1994) are affected by major life transitions, such as when the individual repartners, separates, retires and more. Hagestad (1988) has shown how transitions in one individual's life create ‘follow-transitions’ in other interdependent lives: marriage creates daughter-in-law and son-in-law relationships, divorce creates ex-relationships and parenthood creates grandparental relationships. Previous research has studied the effects that major life transitions have for interdependent lives (Fennell, 2004; Hyde & Higgs, 2004; Kaufman & Uhlenberg, 1998; Lee, 2004; H. Marshall, 2004; Moen, Kim & Hofmeister, 2001; Owen & Flynn, 2004; van Solinge & Henkens, 2005). However this research has mostly focused on major turning points in the institutionalised life course, such as entry into first marriage in young adulthood, birth of children, retirement and widowhood. Studies of transitions in later life and their effects on interdependent lives has mostly focused on widowhood. Less is known about the effects of divorce, and even less about the effects of meeting a new partner late in life.

How does loss of a partner through widowhood or divorce affect interdependent lives? Studies have found that contacts with adult children increase after widowhood, when children step in as the primary sources of instrumental support to their parent (Dykstra, 1993).

Type
Chapter
Information
Intimacy and Ageing
New Relationships in Later Life
, pp. 119 - 134
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2017

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