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A part of a book
Vulnerability Following a Critical Life Event : Temporary Crisis or Chronic Distress ? A Psychological Controversy, Methodological Considerations, and Empirical Evidence
Title of the book
Surveying human vulnerabilities across the life course
Address of publication
Oris M., Roberts C., Joye D., Ernst Staehli M.
Life Course Research and Social Policies
This contribution deals with psychological vulnerability resulting from marital breakup after a long-term relationship. Despite the existing vast body of consolidated knowledge on divorce and psychological adaptation, there are still several controversies concerning the vulnerabilizing impact of marital breakup. One major issue refers to the question of whether vulnerability after marital breakup is a temporary crisis or rather a chronic strain. In this chapter we want to present two possible methodological options to tackle this question: First, comparing a sample of almost 1000 middle-aged persons, who were married on average 19 years, and who experienced a marital split within the last 5 years (4 time groups), with a group of age-matched married controls with regard to various indicators of psychological vulnerability (such as depression and hopelessness). Second, comparing within the divorced group the most vulnerable individuals (in terms of depression, hopelessness, life satisfaction) with those who were the least affected, regarding intra-personal resources (personality, resilience), divorce circumstances, post-divorce situation, and socio-economic resources. The study results underline the vulnerabilizing impact of marital breakup, but at the same time they reveal individual differences in psychological adaptation especially due to personality, new partnership, economic resources, and last but not least due to time. Furthermore our data strongly suggest that there is not a generalized psychological vulnerability after marital breakup, but that the emotional dimensions such as depression or feelings of not overcoming the loss are more affected than the more cognitive ones such as life satisfaction.
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