Can a widow love again

Deborah Carr, Kathrin Boerner

Helena Lopata wrote in “Widowhood in an American City” (1973) that widows experience new love relationships as problematic because their own children are often hostile to a new partnership. Since the publication of Lopata's classics, however, few studies have examined how new love relationships between widows and widowers affect their relationships with their own children.

Based on data from the prospective Changing Lives of Older Couples study (CLOC), we investigated the following questions: (1) What effects does a widowed person's new love relationship have on the parent-child relationship six and 18 months after the loss? (2) To what extent can these aspects be explained by features that existed before the loss? And (3) Which factors influence the connection between a new love relationship between the widow / widower and the parent-child relationship? The results of the multivariate analysis show that widowers who were interested in a new love relationship six months after the loss experienced a lower level of support and more conflict with the children. In contrast, the widows who were open to a new partnership experienced an improvement in relationships. This pattern fits the fact that men are not only interested in a relationship, but also enter into it, whereas women tend not to realize their desire for a relationship. The close relationship between father and children is particularly impaired by the new love relationship if there was already a tense father-child relationship before. If, on the other hand, the relationship was already good before the loss, it tends to become even closer. A new love affair is more likely to have a negative impact on parent-daughter relationships than parent-son relationships. In summary, one can say that new love relationships worsen the parent-child relationship in certain cases. But you can also intensify the relationship between the widow / widower and your own children. The significance of these results for the well-being of older widows and widowers and adult children is discussed in conclusion.

Carr, Deborah; Boerner, Kathrin (2013): “Dating after late-life spousal loss: Does it compromise relationships with adult children?”, In: Journal of aging studies, Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 487-498.

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