Ageing and Society

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Ageing and Society (2010), 30:369-382 Cambridge University Press
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010


How to achieve resilience as an older widower: turning points or gradual change?


a1 School of Psychology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.
Article author query
bennett km [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]


The paper draws together two conceptualisations of resilience in bereavement and widowhood that were developed by Bonanno (2004) and Moore and Stratton (2003), both using North American data. This paper has re-examined data from two United Kingdom studies of widowerhood. Among an aggregate sample of 60 widowers, 38 per cent showed resilience in the face of the exacting challenges that late-life widowhood brings. Resilient men were seen as having a positively viewed biography, were participating in relationships and activities, and had returned to a life that had meaning and brought satisfaction. Four broad categories among the resilient widowers were identified. The first had been resilient consistently throughout their widowhood. The second group achieved resilience gradually, and the third following a turning point. Finally, a small group of men demonstrated both gradual and turning point pathways towards resilience. Personal characteristics had been particularly influential for those in the first group, while for the last group, social support had made an important contribution to achieving resilience and had two forms: informal and formal. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the differentiation of resilience for adaptation to bereavement amongst older men.

(Accepted October 02 2009)

(Online publication January 21 2010)

Key Words:widower; resilience; social support; personality


c1 Address for correspondence: Kate M. Bennett, School of Psychology, University of Liverpool, Eleanor Rathbone Building, Bedford Street South, Liverpool L69 7ZA, UK E-mail: