Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Current Research on Widowhood: Devastation and Human Resilience

The Journals of Gerontology (Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences - Series B) for January 2014 arrived on my desk this week. It is a special issue on widowhood and bereavement.  An opening editorial by Sociology Professor Gary R. Lee (Bowling Green State University) provides an enticing introduction to "Current Research on Widowhood: Devastation and Human Resilience."  He begins:

"As of 2010, there were more than 14 million widowed persons in the U.S. population -- nearly 3 million men and well more than 11 million women (U.S. Bureau of Census, 2012 Table 57).  About 13% of men and about 40% of women aged 65 and older, and 57% of women aged 75 and older, are widows. This is, of course, just a single snapshot in time; nearly half of the population necessarily experience widowhood during their lifetimes.  The only ways to of avoiding it are to never marry, to divorce and never remarry, or to predecease your spouse....

 

Over the years, I have noted with interest how many articles on widowhood begin with a citation to Holmes and Rahe (1967) to the effect that widowhood is perhaps the most distressing and difficult experience of people's lives.... But some close scrutiny and some nuanced qualifications may be needed."

After outlining the array of articles in the special issue, Lee concludes:

"We know much more about the consequences of widowhood now than we did when Holmes and Rahe (1967) made their of-cited observations about its devastating effects. It does more than just make people sad; it changes their lives in fundamental ways.  But the real story here may lie in the search for the ways in which widows and widowers manage to cope with the loss of their spouses and adjust to the new realities they must face." 

The table of contents for the issue is available here

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/elder_law/2014/01/current-research-on-widowhood-devastation-and-human-resiliance.html

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