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Eight - A new partner as a resource for social support

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 chapters of the book have focused on structural factors impacting on repartnering in later life and how these factors shape older people's attitudes and experiences of repartnering. The following two chapters instead focus on the consequences of repartnering for older individuals and their social network. The purpose of this chapter is to investigate the gains of repartnering in old age. We ask what a new intimate relationship can offer the individual who repartners in later life and if these rewards are different in later life than earlier in life. The chapter starts with a brief presentation of two theoretical perspectives that have been used to understand the reasons for late-life repartnering: rational choice theory and functionalism. The chapter continues by detailing different kinds of social support that a new relationship can offer the individual – companionate, emotional and practical support. The chapter will primarily be based on a review of previous research. Since our own interviews support earlier research, in this chapter they are primarily used to illustrate and provide a deeper understanding of those findings.

The gains of repartnering

Research about late-life relationship transitions has primarily focused on the loss of a partner through widowhood, and also, but to a much lesser extent, through divorce. Loneliness is an important consequence of widowhood for both men and women, who miss the life they had with their partner and the support he or she provided (Carr, 2004; Carr et al, 2002; Davidson, 2001, 2002; Dykstra & Gierveld, 2004; Stevens, 2004; Öberg, Andersson & Bildtgård, 2016). Some studies of divorce (Aquilino, 1994; Cooney & Dunne, 2001; Daatland, 2007; Shapiro, 2003) have furthermore suggested that parent–child relationships, especially between older fathers and their adult children, suffer negatively from a parental divorce and contribute to social isolation of the older parents (although some studies do not support these findings, for example Dykstra, 1993; K. Glaser, Stuchbury, Tomassini & Askham, 2008).

But all transitions in later life are not necessarily about loss, they can also include gains. Later life can offer the opportunity to gain new intimate partners. A substantial minority of older singles will find a new partner and even more are interested in repartnering.

Type
Chapter
Information
Intimacy and Ageing
New Relationships in Later Life
, pp. 105 - 118
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2017

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