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The partner in late-life repartnering: caregiving expectations from an intergenerational perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2016

Chaya Koren*
Affiliation:
School of Social Work and Center for the Study of Society, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
Shiran Simhi
Affiliation:
School of Social Work and Center for the Study of Society, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
Sharon Lipman-Schiby
Affiliation:
School of Social Work and Center for the Study of Society, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
Saray Fogel
Affiliation:
School of Social Work and Center for the Study of Society, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
*
Correspondence should be addressed to: Chaya Koren, School of Social Work and Center for the Study of Society, University of Haifa, 199 Abba Khoushy Ave., Mount Carmel, Haifa 3498838, Israel. Phone: +972-54-6345876. Email: salsterk@gmail.com.

Abstract

Background:

Late-life repartnering among functionally independent adults, resulting in complex stepfamilies, has emerged with increased life expectancy, and is likely to develop further. It is perceived as a chance for renewal and autonomy, enabling a release from dependency on offspring, whereas caregiving is associated with dependency and becoming a burden on family members. Thus, the experiences of late-life repartnering and caregiving are opposites. Using a life course perspective, we explore partner caregiving expectations in late-life repartnering from the viewpoints of three generations in complex stepfamilies in Israel, a society characterized by collectivist alongside individualist familial norms.

Methods:

Using criterion sampling, we recruited 19 stepfamily units (38 families) of functionally independent persons who repartnered at the official retirement age or older and had offspring from a lifelong marriage that ended in widowhood or divorce. One-hundred-seven semi-structured qualitative interviews with older partners, their adult children, and grandchildren were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Analysis was based on grounded theory principles and dyadic analysis adapted to families.

Results:

Two themes emerged: caregiving commitment and decision making. Issues included: influences of partner-caregiving history; chronic versus temporary caregiving situations; caregiving strengthening partner relationships and influencing stepfamily relationships, and moral dilemmas, such as what happens when fun – a motive for repartnering – is no longer possible. Could abandonment become an option?

Conclusions:

From a life course perspective, caregiving, as “on-time,” and late-life repartnering, as “off-time,” highlight the lack of norms and the need to establish normative behavior for caregiving in late-life repartnering in diverse cultural contexts along with its reservations.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © International Psychogeriatric Association 2016 

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