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Collins, T
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: health_and_wellbeing
Many older women experience the loss of a spouse or partner in later life. Social networks and social support are widely thought to help buffer such traumatic events and ease subsequent transitions. This longitudinal study considers the significance of personal communities in managing the transition of later life widowhood. A series of qualitative interviews were conducted with twenty-six older widows over a period of eighteen months. Personal community diagrams were used to identify the structure of the women’s personal communities, allowing for the development of a typology. The content or expressive characteristics of these relationships were explored further through the women’s experiences of Christmas and the exchange of Christmas cards. \ud Content and thematic analysis revealed four core types of personal community among the older widows in this study, comprising different combinations of family, friends and others. The continuity and discontinuity of these social relationships, as well as the re-arrangement of family and friendship practices, demonstrate the multifaceted and ever-shifting characteristics of personal communities during the transition of widowhood. The findings also illustrate the diverse, complex, and often paradoxical nature of personal relationships within structurally similar personal community types, which is often compounded by multiple transitions in addition to widowhood itself. Using the lens of personal communities over a period of time reveals that the management of transition incorporates not only social relations, but also personal agency, and flexibility. These combined factors appear to be more important to adaptation during later life widowhood than personal community type. The findings help to re-frame the existing dialogue on later life widowhood and social support.
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