Social and self continuity dynamics after intimate partner loss in later life


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PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Social and self continuity dynamics after intimate partner loss in later life
Institution details
Université de Lausanne, Faculté des sciences sociales et politiques
Publication state
Writing in progress
Perceiving continuity, both with respect to self and social aspects, is an adaptive identity mechanism, which emerges in adolescence, develops in adulthood and is mostly needed in later life. Self-continuity is reinforced by reflecting upon one’s life story and by incorporating life changes.
Social-continuity, on the other hand, reflects the maintenance of social groups and roles, and has been found to be beneficial for well-being under health-related challenges. However, little is known regarding which critical life events may have a negative impact on self-continuity in later life and under which circumstances self-continuity can benefit well-being in adaptation to normative and non-normative life changes. Additionally, the concurrent influence of the two mechanisms on well- being has been greatly overlooked. Following a dynamic view on vulnerability, and drawing from the model of continuity of normal aging, this PhD work has three main aims addressed in the following studies: 1) To investigate with longitudinal quantitative data how self-continuity develops with age, whether its development differs depending on later life critical life events, such as divorce and bereavement, and which are its life course determinants; 2) to assess the role of self-continuity and social-continuity as coping mechanisms in the context of later-life social loneliness after divorce, with a specific focus on timing of adaptation; and 3) to examine the function of self- continuity as a coping mechanism for later life partner loss, by testing its role as mediator of the link between childhood adversity and well-being, accounting, at the same time, for social- continuity. In sum, findings of the 1st study show that individuals experienced stronger feelings of self-continuity as they aged, and that childhood adversity had a negative impact on later life self- continuity. Differences in self-continuity were observed between divorcees, bereaved and married individuals, with divorcees being more negatively impacted. In the 2nd study, results indicated that both types of continuity complemented each other and had a positive link to well-being outcomes depending also on the adaptation phase to loss. Finally, in the 3rd study, self-continuity was found to have a channeling effect between childhood adversity and later life well-being outcomes, with differential predictive patterns depending on the marital status. Future use of these findings should aim in designing interventions that address the negative impact of life course determinants on a fragile sense of continuity, and help individuals reinforce their perceptions of self- and social- continuity.
La perception de la continuité, en ce qui concerne le soi et les aspects sociaux, est un mécanisme d'identité adaptatif, qui émerge à l'adolescence, se développe à l'âge adulte et se révèle très important dans la vieillesse. La continuité du soi est renforcée en réfléchissant à l'histoire personnelle de la vie et en incorporant ses changements. La continuité sociale, d'autre part, est ancrée dans le maintien de groupes et de rôles sociaux, et s'est avérée bénéfique pour le bien-être et la santé. Cependant, on connaît peu l’impact des événements critiques de la vie sur la continuité du soi dans la seconde partie de la vie et dans quelles circonstances la continuité du soi peut bénéficier au bien-être lors de l'adaptation aux changements de vie normatifs et non normatifs, sans parler de l'influence concomitante des deux mécanismes au bien-être, qui a été largement ignorés. En suivant une perspective dynamique de la vulnérabilité et en s'inspirant du modèle de continuité du vieillissement normal, cette thèse a trois objectifs principaux: 1) Étudier comment se développe la continuité du soi avec l'âge (développement différé pour divorce/deuil; déterminants du parcours de vie); 2) évaluer le rôle de la continuité du soi et de la continuité sociale en tant que mécanismes d'adaptation après un divorce; et 3) examiner la fonction de la continuité du soi en tant que mécanisme d'adaptation à la perte du partenaire en âge avancé, en testant son rôle de médiateur sur le lien entre des expériences adverses durant l’enfance et le bien-être, tout en tenant compte de la continuité sociale. Ces résultats devraient permettre le développement d’interventions qui diminuent l'impact négatif des déterminants du parcours de vie sur le sentiment de continuité et aider les individus à renforcer leur perception de continuité du soi et de continuité sociale.
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06/07/2020 10:09
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10/12/2020 11:55
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