Ageing and Society



The interweaving of repartnered older adults' lives with their children and siblings


JENNY DE JONG GIERVELD a1c1 and ANNEMARIE PEETERS a2
a1 Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Wassenaar, and Department of Sociology and Social Gerontology, Vrije University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
a2 Department of Sociology and Social Gerontology, Vrije University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Abstract

This paper examines the consequences of repartnering upon the social embeddedness of older adults' lives. The starting hypotheses, that repartnering is a stressful life event and is incompletely institutionalised, are examined using the NESTOR longitudinal survey data from The Netherlands on 4,449 respondents aged 55–89 years, together with in-depth interviews of 46 adults aged 50 or more years who had repartnered in later life. The results indicate that more repartnered older adults choose unmarried cohabitation and to ‘live apart together’ than remarriage. It was also found that when two partners come together, while not surprisingly their social networks become larger than those of separated older adults who do not enter a new relationship, less positively the quality of the subjects' relationships with their children was negatively affected. The older adults who opted for unmarried cohabitation and ‘living apart together’ relationships tended to have the weakest bonds with their children, principally for reasons associated with stress and (financial) insecurity.

(Accepted October 1 2002)


Key Words: older adults; new partner relationships; remarriage; consensual unions; living apart together; social networks; kin bonds.

Correspondence:
c1 Jenny de Jong Gierveld, Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Meijboomlaan 1, 2242 PR Wassenaar, The Netherlands. e-mail: Gierveld@nias.knaw.nl