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Title: Examining the impact of marital status transitions on psychological wellbeing and social participation : does age matter?
Author: Soulsby, Laura Kate
ISNI:       0000 0004 2736 8825
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis reports an empirical study of the psychological and social consequences of heterosexual marital status change. The main purpose of this research is to provide a coherent and convincing account of the experience of marital status change across the life course. Examining changes in psychological health and social participation, this study employs a multi-method approach: secondary panel survey data from the BHPS provides an insight into changes in psychological wellbeing over time (N=3446); a questionnaire study considers the associations between marital status, psychological wellbeing and social support (N=510); and in-depth interviews with 82 men and women who have entered into a cohabiting (N=9) or married (N=29) relationship, or experienced a transition out of marriage through widowhood (N=23), or divorce (N=21) are used to explore the impact of a change in marital status on social participation. The main findings indicate that marital status transitions have consequences for psychological health and social participation. The never married, remarried and those in cohabiting or Living Apart Together relationships attain similar levels of psychological health to the continuously married. Transitions out of marriage, on the other hand, have a significant negative impact on psychological wellbeing and perceived social support emerges as a significant mediator of this relationship between marital status and psychological health. Entry into cohabitation and marriage are generally viewed as positive life events, while widowhood and divorce are associated with a considerable disruption to the social network, exchange of social support and sense of identity. Transitions out of marriage force people to reconstruct their social and personal identity and this process of identity change emerges as both a cause of and consequence of changes in social participation. Further, there are specific issues that older widowed people tend to experience as a consequence of increasing age. These include physical limitations, financial status, and smaller social networks prior to marital status change. Unique challenges for the younger widowed include the absence of a peer group and a wider range of practical responsibilities, including young children and ageing parents. In this study, there is no evidence that age plays a significant role in the impact of cohabitation, marriage or divorce. Together, the findings suggest that the lowered levels of psychological health experienced by the widowed and divorced result from the considerable disruption of a transition out of marriage to the social network, exchange of social support and identity, and highlight the differential impact of widowhood across the life course. Support services should, therefore, work with the aim of minimising the negative social outcomes of transitions out of marriage, including separation, divorce and widowhood.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available