How do widowed male and female experiences of age-related changes such as loss, illness, and vulnerability differ in relation to attachment style and social connectedness?


Bachelor Thesis, 2019

87 Pages, Grade: 68%


Excerpt

Table of Contents

Chapter One
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Background
1.3 Researchers Motivation
1.4 Aims
1.5 Objectives

Chapter Two
Literature Review
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The Impact of Age-Related Changes in Later Life
2.3 Attachment Theory
2.5 Attachment and Well-Being
2.6 The Role of Social Support and Attachment in Later Life
2.7 The Impact of Social Support
2.8 Consequences of Widowhood
2.8.1 Loneliness
2.9 Gender Differences in the Experience of Loss
2.10 The Role of Selection, Optimisation and Compensation
2.11 Conclusion

Chapter Three
Methods
3.1 Design
3.2 Participants
3.2.1 Recruitment
3.2.2 Sample
3.2.3 Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria
3.3 Materials
3.3.1 Stage One: Short questionnaires
3.3.1.1 The Relationship Questionnaire
3.3.1.2 The Lubben Social Network Scale
3.3.2 Stage Two: Semi-structured interviews
3.4 Procedure
3.5 Analysis
3.6 Ethical considerations

Chapter Four
Results and Discussion
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Part One: Themes
4.4 “A sea change”
4.4.1 A Completely Different Life - “Everything changed”
4.4.2 Newfound Freedom
4.5 “It's like being cut in half”: The consequences of widowhood
4.5.1 “Being cut in half”
4.5.2 Loss of Motivation and Desire
4.5.3 Feelings of Loneliness
4.6 Impact of Ageing
4.6.1 “I would never be a burden” - An emphasis on Independence
4.6.2 Increased Vulnerability
4.7 Part 2: The Impact of Attachment and Social Connectedness
4.8 Performance
4.9 Limitations

Chapter Five

Conclusions and Recommendations

References

Appendices
Appendix 1: Interview Schedule
Appendix 2: Consent Fo r m
Appendix 3: Information Sheet
Appendix 4: Recruitment Poster
Appendix 5: Attachment Measure
Appendix 6: Social Network Measure
Appendix 7: Debrief Sheet
Appendix 8: Example of Unanalysed Interview Transcribe
Appendix 9: Example of Initial Analytic Notation
Appendix 11: Hierarchical Reviewed and Recoded List
Appendix 12: Example of Initial Table of Themes for Participant
Appendix 13: Example of Initial Group Table with Master Themes and Superordinate Themes

Acknowledgements

I would firstly like to express my gratitude for the support and guidance provided by Dr Geraldine Jones throughout my project, whose advice was thoroughly valued and appreciated.

I would also like to thank the participants who took time out of their day to take part in this study. Without your contribution, sincerity and overall enthusiasm for the project, it would not have been possible.

For the support of my friends who I had the pleasure of meeting through University, thank you for your words of encouragement and positivity, I wish you all every success.

I would like to express how grateful I am for my wonderful family, who have always been my biggest fan. Thank you for providing countless amounts of support and encouragement over the years, I hope I have done you proud.

Finally, I would like express my appreciation for my boyfriend, Niall, for always ensuring I believe in myself. Thank you endlessly.

Abstract

Old-age is a time associated with major transitions which can have profound effects on elderly well-being. Research points towards the idea that distinct inter-individual differences exist, like attachment style, which significantly impact adjustment to ageing. The imperative role of these variables paved way for this research as a significant literature gap was revealed. The focus of this study seeks to investigate how widowed elderly male and female experiences of age-related changes such as loss, illness and vulnerability differ in relation to attachment style and social support. Encompassing loss, gender, social support and attachment as a collection of variables which may significantly impact upon well-being, these were translated into research questions to guide analysis. The sample consisted of participants (n=5) aged 65-80 who were widowed within the last five years. Semi-structured interviews explored the experiences of ageing, while quantitative research measured participant's attachment style and social network score on the Relationship Questionnaire (Bartholomew and Horowitz, 1991) and Lubben Social Network-6 Scale (Lubben, 1988). Interviews were transcribed and analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), from the perspective of Baltes and Baltes (1990) SOC-model to determine its potential in successful ageing. This stemmed the emergence of three master themes which encompassed ageing as a drastic transformation, spurring a newfound freedom while entailing loneliness, motivational declines and heightened vulnerabilities. Notable, was the collective dislike of feeling like a ‘burden'. Participant's performance on attachment and social measures analysed against emergent themes, served as support for the regulating role of social ties and secure- attachment on well-being and satisfaction. The study highlights the benefits of SOC in successfully adjusting to dependencies in the face of declines. Overall, an idiographic exploration of ageing and its impacting variables was established, providing valuable insights and building upon a neglected area which highlights important implications for future research.

List of Figures and Tables

Table 1: Participant Demographics

Table 2: Phases of Analysis

Table 3: Master Themes and Superordinate Themes

Table 4: Participant Performance

Chapter One

Introduction

1.1 Introduction

This study presents an Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of the unique experiences of elderly widowed individuals, exploring attachment, gender, and social support as a selection of facets which influence the transitions associated with later- life. This research holds particular relevance for elderly well-being and is considered a worthwhile endeavour as existing research is limited.

1.2 Background

As individuals get older, they become faced with several changes and often the loss of a loved one. The ways in which individuals cope with these challenges differ vastly due to a multitude of factors. The interrelatedness of ageing, social support and health is becoming increasingly recognised. However, the inter-individual differences which impact upon outcomes must be addressed. Attachment style has been shown to mediate psychological health and well-being (Mikulincer and Shaver, 2007). However, despite Bowlby's belief that attachment characterizes individuals “from the cradle to the grave” (Bowlby, 1969 p.129), little attention is paid to behaviours past adolescence. The social support individuals receive is also a direct parallel to attachment (Merz & Consedine, 2009). In later life, social networks often shrink and likelihood of loss increases (Broese van Groenou, Hoogendijk & van Tilburg, 2012) which may hinder well-being. Additionally, the ways in which men and women experience age-related changes has been shown to differ, regarding adaptation, social support and vulnerability (Shumaker and Hill, 1991; McLean et al., 2011). The pivotal role of these factors alongside strategies to support elderly-adults in ageing must be acknowledged. Further, potential exists for synthesis regarding the impact and interplay of gender, social support and attachment among elderly experience.

1.3 Researchers Motivation

The researcher identified the integral role of gender, attachment and social support throughout the lifespan among literature and was fascinated in examining the interplay of these factors among elderly-adults, due to a relative dearth in literature.

1.4 Aims

This study aims to explore how widowed elderly male and female experiences of age- related changes like loss, illness and vulnerability differ in relation to attachment style and social support.

1.5 Objectives

1. Explore the unique experiences of ageing
2. Uncover gender discrepancies within age-related changes
3. Explore the theoretical framework and role of attachment in ageing
4. Examine the effects of social support on elderly well-being and outcomes
5. Address the effectiveness of utilizing Selection, Optimisation and Compensation

Chapter Two

Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

This chapter delivers an evaluative account of the literature surrounding the underpinnings of attachment, social support and gender differences in ageing by elucidating a theoretical grounding and uncovering parallels and discrepancies within research. The theoretical framework which drives the basis of the study is that Bowlby's (1969) Attachment Theory, concerning children and later encompassing adults (Hazan & Shaver, 1994), will significantly impact experience of ageing, social support and well-being. Overall, the literature presented will provide an overview of research thus far to establish a focus for this study to build upon.

2.2 The Impact of Age-Related Changes in Later Life

Throughout the lifespan, individuals are subject to a multitude of transitions. In the body of literature, as one enters old-age, they are faced with challenges which can impact life quality (Butler and Ciarrochi, 2007). Blazer (1982) states that a multifaceted interplay of factors may influence elderly outcomes. Old-age is often considered a succession of gradual and sudden losses (Butler and Lewis, 1982). Huyck (1990) considers it a pivotal time whereby changes occur which may diminish well-being, challenge coping abilities and intensify vulnerabilities. Individuals are often faced with loss, illness and declines in social ties. Additionally, men and women differ extensively in their adjustment to bereavement (Stroebe, Folkman, Hansson and Schut, 2006) which may be explained by gender discrepancies within health, social support and resources. For some, ageing is incredibly challenging and considered a time of significant loss, resulting in low psychological well-being (Tornstam, 1992). Butler and Lewis (1982) claim that maintaining life satisfaction is made easier through strong support and compensating for changes. Furthermore, literature points towards the idea that inter-individual differences exist within the elderly population, like attachment style, which extensively impact how one experiences the transitions of old-age.

2.3 Attachment Theory

The Attachment Theory, primarily derived by John Bowlby (1969) and Mary Ainsworth (1982), demonstrates the dyadic relationship between an infant and their primary caregiver which provides the child with a secure base for exploration (Ainsworth and Bowlby, 1991) interrupted only by separation and deprivation (Betherton, 1992). In Ainsworth's (1978) Strange Situation, differences within infant attachment style were classified: secure, anxious-resistant and avoidant. These become internalised representations which influence interpersonal experiences (Bowlby, 1969). The role of attachment has been identified upon several phenomena, including health, well­being, and stress-response (Ravitz, Maunder, Hunter, Sthankiya & Lancee, 2019). However, research suffers an overreliance on childhood accounts which may not remain appropriate in adulthood (Fraley & Shaver, 2000). Recent studies have taken an interest in adult attachment with the help of Shaver and Hazan (1988), who observed the Internal Working Model to encapsulate romantic relationships (Bowlby, 1969). Unlike securely-attached adults who ordinarily form loving relationships, Mickelson, Kessler, & Shaver (1997) found anxiously-attached adults exhibited trust issues and greater dependency. Thus, attachment has direct influence on interactions, which may be affected beyond the romantic-relationship dyad. Further, the unique significance that attachment holds among elderly-adults remains relatively untested, giving scope for this study.

The shortage in literature which makes sense of attachment phenomena among this population is surprising. Mikulincer and Shaver (2007) identified attachment as a determinant of psychological health and well-being, two correlates of successful ageing. Some theorists (Wright, Hickey, Buckwalter and Clipp, 1995) claim attachment is one of the most pivotal developmental issues in older-age. In a systematic review, Bradley and Cafferty (2001) highlight that attachment holds particular relevance for elderly-adults due to inflated potential for separation and vulnerability. Attachment Theory provides a fascinating framework to make sense of the discrepancies which exist within adaptive functioning in later life (Bowlby, 1980). Common areas of research involve its influence on loss and adjustment (Bradley and Cafferty, 2001). Individuals differ extensively in response to bereavement, which attachment is often employed to explain. Drawing upon Bowlby's writings, Parkes and Weiss (1983) examined grief-reactions among non-elderly widows, discovering that women who conveyed high dependency, exhibited greater pathological grief­reactions. Dependency is labelled a prominent feature of anxious-attachment, suggesting that attachment plays a role in regulating the severity of grief. Thus, highlighting research implications, as elderly-adults are considered at greater risk of experiencing loss, further justifying the inclusion of attachment in this study.

Furthermore, old-age is a time of greater need and dependency, whereby attachment behaviours may become significantly prominent (Bowlby, 1969). Despite this, there is a shortage of literature which makes sense of attachment phenomena among elderly-adults. In the present study, attachment is hypothesized to significantly impact outcomes and experiences.

2.5 Attachment and Well-Being

The correlation which exists between secure-attachment and well-being has been well-documented (Love and Murdock, 2004). However, preliminary evidence of this relationship among elderly-adults (e.g. Anderson and Steven, 1993) is emerging. Wensauer and Grossman's (1995) work, supported by Webster (1997), concluded that securely-attached individuals experienced greater social integration, health, and satisfaction, compared to insecure subjects. Kafetsios and Sideridis (2006) found this to be the case in adulthood. Barnas, Pollina and Cummings (1991) discovered that elderly women who reported insecure bonds with their children, experienced lower well-being across several domains. Further, Karreman and Vingerhoets (2012) demonstrated well-being fluctuating from attachment, linking secure and dismissing styles to high well-being, resilience and reappraisal, and preoccupied-attachment to adverse outcomes.

Mikulincer and Shaver (2007) highlight that securely-attached persons are unlikely to suppress emotional expression and acknowledge their need for support. Contrastingly, insecurely-attached individuals depend on hyper-activating strategies in stressful situations. Though results are less consistent, avoidant-individuals have shown to rely on deactivating strategies and demonstrate low resilience, reappraisal and well-being (Mikulincer and Shaver, 2007). However, findings are limited in examining well-being as a dependent variable. Well-being is not the opposite of negative outcomes and attachment contributions should be examined in terms of positive and negative variables, ushering empirical investigation. It is clear that considerable potential exists for syntheses between attachment and research addressing elderly outcomes.

2.6 The Role of Social Support and Attachment in Later Life

In line with Bowlby's accounts that attachment is theorized to guide interactions, attachment is considered to influence social support (Ognibene and Collins, 1998). Several researchers (e.g. Ravitz et al, 2019) have validated this relationship. Social support has been identified as a mediator of attachment-security on several domains, whereby satisfaction decreased as an influence of anxious and avoidant-attachment (Vogel & Wei, 2005). However, research examining this among elderly-adults is scarce, which is surprising, given the fluctuations which occur within social functioning and relationships in later life. This study seeks to establish the role of attachment on social support, as despite confirmation of its global influence (Bartholomew and Horowitz, 1991), the dearth in research suggests relevant implications.

Florian, Mikulincer and Bucholtz (1995) discovered securely-attached persons perceived greater instrumental and emotional support. They report satisfying networks and rarely struggle with support-seeking (Anders and Tucker, 2000); the attachment system's fundamental strategy when handling stress (Bowlby, 1980). Ognibene and Collins (1998) discovered that dismissing and fearful persons, contrarily, are less inclined to source support when required. While findings remain useful in highlighting implications for the viability of this research, the majority of work to date is concerned with supportive functions within romantic relationships (Simpson, Rholes, & Nelligan, 1992). There is a need to examine attachment within a social context.

Merz and Consedine (2009) examined attachment's moderating role on well­being and familial support, discovering that securely-attached elderly persons experienced greater well-being and benefited from familial support (Merz and Consedine, 2009). While confirming existing literature, this highlights that family members are significant sources of support for elderly adults. Ditzen et al, (2008) studied the influence of social support and attachment on stress-responses, discovering anxiety levels were lowest when secure-attachment and support were combined, highlighting their protective roles. However, the study was limited in utilizing a male-only sample. The inconclusiveness of literature surrounding gender highlights a need for further investigation, justifying its inclusion as a focus of this research.

The cited studies contribute to a sound understanding that attachment plays a moderating role on social support. However, just one study (Lanier, 1996) has specifically examined the impact of attachment on social support in later life. While discovering discrepancies within support and attachment styles among elderly-adults, measurement issues were evident throughout, producing confounding results. Furthermore, considering that attachment behaviours and social support is most beneficial in times of distress, it is pivotal to investigate their relationship within this population. The empirical and conceptual relevance of social support to elderly well­being is expected to be significant.

2.7 The Impact of Social Support

Savikko (2008) defines well-being as a multifaceted phenomenon, encompassing various elements which activities may reflect upon (Gauvin and Spence, 1996). Silverstein and Bengtson (1994) demonstrated that widowed individual's well-being was moderated by social support. Antonucci (2001) reinforced this, advocating that social networks exert powerful effects on psychological well-being, due to their instrumental and emotional functionalities. Bondevik and Skogstad (1998) claim that social isolation prevails among elderly-adults due to inevitable health and vitality declines; pivotal dimensions of well-being (Felce and Perry, 1995). Furthermore, Cohen and Wills (1985) stated that individuals obtaining high resources experience greater life satisfaction. Thus, a correlation between social support and well-being exists. According to Berkman (2000) and supported by Nicholson (2008), small social networks pose threat of mortality. Therefore, to some degree, those experiencing isolation effects have greater likelihood of negative health consequences.

While studies have examined social isolation effects on adolescents, elderly research is limited (Tamra, 2008). The desire for consistent, positive relationships is fundamental (Baumeister and Leary, 1995) and does not decrease over time. Social deficits have been linked to several consequences among adults (Uchino, 2006) and the protective and harmful effects of strong versus limited support on health are demonstrated by several researchers (Ozbay et al, 2007). Golden et al, (2009) found social isolation accounted for 70% of the prevalence of depressive mood in an elderly sample, supporting Diener et al.'s (1999) claim that social connection is among the interrelated variables which construct elderly well-being. Silverstein and Bengtson (1994) claim that receiving support from children regulates declines in well-being linked to bereavement. Thekkedath and Joseph (2009) addressed the significance of social factors on well-being among elderly Indian women. While limited in its female­specific sample, it reveals key issues hindering social support; i.e. changes in social role, supported by the empirical research of Mishra, Pandey, Joby and Jha (2014). While findings are culture-specific, they reveal important implications. Blazer (1982) found large social ties, familial and social support were positively linked to health outcomes. Additionally, Andrew, Mitnitski and Rockwood (2008) linked limited engagement to cognitive declines, associating social vulnerability with higher mortality. Furthermore, the integral role of social support in elderly well-being must be acknowledged as its effects are evident.

2.8 Consequences of Widowhood

The idea that widowhood causes distress is not novel. Hatch (2000) states that widowhood encounters greater social and psychological fluctuations than any other event. Stroebe, Stroebe and Hansson (1996) highlight that widowhood can impose harmful effects on health. Rates of loneliness, depression and mortality are much higher for widowed individuals (Carter and Glick, 1976; Stroebe and Stroebe, 1987). The severity of grief is consistently associated to the degree of which loss is expected. Elderly-adulthood is a time associated with loss, and therefore, losing an attachment figure may be, to some extent, slightly less devastating as it is considered a natural developmental occurrence (Mikulincer and Florian, 1996). In cases where patients have suffered a longstanding illness, it may even be considered a release. Contrastingly, Sable (1991) associated old-age with greater distress following spousal-loss as importance is placed upon spousal-relationships due to social declines. It is notable that such distinctions are relative, as in almost every case, involuntary loss is likely to cause upset (Mikulincer and Florian, 1996). With regards to the inflated potential for loss, presents clear justification to enhance understanding of the consequences of widowhood.

Grootheest et al. (1999) claim there is a direct effect of widowhood on depression. Further, Boss (2000) advocates that declines in social functioning are a noteworthy depressive symptom, imperative in warranting social support. Weiss (1974) led to implications surrounding how social support is viewed through the development of measures which address provisions of support. Both loneliness and social support have been linked to elderly well-being (Golden et al., 2009). When describing successful ageing, adults increasingly emphasize social engagement over physical health (Depp and Jeste, 2006). Researchers have indicated the value of emotional and instrumental resources in support as essential for the maintenance of well-being. Further, social isolation is a phenomenon which cannot be ignored when examining this population (Cacioppo et al., 2006). This study predicts that widowhood may impose social deficits which may considerably impact well-being.

2.8.1 Loneliness.

Loneliness is the subjective experience of social isolation, defined by Savikko (2008) as a significant health risk among elderly-adults. It encompasses a state of discrepancy between desired and available amounts of companionship (Blazer,2002). Essentially, it is a social integration deficit which may occur following loss due to changes in contacts and support (Weiss, 1975) which has been named a “hidden killer” among elderly (Coughlan, 2011). Seeman (2000) identified links between loneliness and health outcomes like depression. Golden et al (2009) discovered widowhood to be one of the most significant predictors of loneliness. This study postulates that loneliness will be a prevalent issue among the bereaved participants.

Dykstra (1995) discovered that loneliness decreased over time following bereavement, excluding circumstances of unexpected loss. This particular literature did not show any consensus regarding links between loneliness and living arrangements. Despite living alone being predictive of loneliness, elderly adults who had always remained single, described less loneliness than widowed individuals (Dykstra, 1995), and so in this particular case, living alone and loneliness were not related. However, this is only one study and results may be subjective, thus it is important to challenge.

Stroebe et al.'s (1996) deficit model states that spousal-loss spurs relationship deficits within emotional and instrumental support, where the root of loneliness is considered to lie. Weiss's (1975) relational theory of loneliness differentiates between social and emotional loneliness which develop following bereavement, defining emotional loneliness as the absence of an attachment figure who offers security (Bowlby, 1969). Due to the increased likelihood of loss, experiencing isolation effects presents great risk (Russel, 1996). Stek et al (2005) claim that loneliness increases all-cause mortality among elderly. The association between loneliness and depression is consistent across cultures (Cacioppo et al., 2006). However, depression among elderly-adults often goes unrecognized (Pitt, 1998). Further, loneliness within old-age is an important focus of exploration. It is hypothesizes that there will be a link between widowhood and subjective loneliness in this study.

2.9 Gender Differences in the Experience of Loss

Men and women differ extensively in adjustment to loss (Stroebe et al, 2006). Losing a partner significantly increases mortality and morbidity, however researchers have shown adverse effects of widowhood on men (Stroebe and Schut, 2001). Gender differences in loss are one of the most interesting phenomena within bereavement. Many contributors have been employed to explain this, including men's stronger dislike of domestic labour and lower frequency of Church attendance (Lee, DeMaris, Bavin and Sullivan, 2001). In a study contrasting widowed and non-widowed persons, Schuster and Butler (1989) discovered that widowers were substantially more depressed than married men, while this was insignificant among females.

Gender effects may reflect differences in coping resources. A review of literature suggests that men suffer worse health consequences due to lesser social support received compared to women (Stroebe, Stroebe and Schut, 2001). Antonucci (1990) highlighted that women experience greater interaction and maintain extensive networks (Barer, 1994) which makes them socially competent (McMullen and Gross, 1983). The differences within support and relational disposition highlights the social advantage women may obtain in adjusting to bereavement. Although plausible, an interpretation of gender differences in support has yet to be empirically confirmed (Stroebe, Stroebe and Schut 2001). Further, to the extent that gender discrepancies exist within coping-resources, little validation of the commonly accepted grief hypothesis has been made.

Despite claims that widowhood is related to greater declines in male health (Bengtson et al, 1990), remarkably, little research explores this. Umberson, Wortman, and Kessler (1992) tested gender to investigate longstanding differences in depression susceptibility among bereaved individuals, discovering that in comparison to married persons, men were significantly more affected. Lee, Willetts, & Seccombe (1998) highlighted a similar pattern among an elderly sample, discovering for men, widowhood had “substantially stronger effect on depression”. Lee et al, (2001) highlights that widowhood may be more challenging because they may have more to lose. While women are said to benefit financially from marriage (Marini, 1989), men are considered to gain more from emotional support (Bernard, 1973; Gove, 1984) and thus, experience greater loss when marriage is involuntarily ended. It is important to highlight disadvantages which women can face. Earlier findings (e.g. Liefbroer and Gierveld, 1995) have shown women to have less education than men, and losing a partner may put them at a disadvantage. However, there has since been a considerable shift in times and current research is needed to investigate the relevance of gender issues in ageing.

The remaining possibilities behind the existence of gender discrepancies may relate to traditional gender roles. Elwell and Maltbie-Crannel (1981) developed a stress-model which conceptualised role-loss to hinder satisfaction and coping resources, concluding that for men especially, role-loss enforced direct effects. Arber and Ginn (1991) proposed that men become distressed by sudden domestic responsibility. Umberson et al. (1992) discovered that the time spent on domestic labour increases for men following widowhood, amplifying levels of depression. Although plausible, much of the literature derives from the 1990s, providing substantial motive to re-examine these effects and discover if discrepancies remain. Contrastingly to empirical studies surrounding widowhood, this study focuses explicitly on the dynamic individual differences which appear to be overlooked within the adjustment process.

2.10 The Role of Selection, Optimisation and Compensation

According to Rowe and Kahn (1997), ageing successfully incorporates a multitude of events. However, the use of theoretical frameworks for guidance on supporting elderly-adults remains limited. The developmental dynamic of gains and losses have been conceptualised in Baltes and Baltes (1990) Selection, Optimisation and Compensation meta-model. SOC can be explained as one single process of adaptation, whereby elements contribute towards successful development (Freund and Baltes, 1998). Selection involves focusing upon important goals; optimization requires engagement in goal-directed action; and compensation maintains a level of function in the face of loss/decline of goal-relevant means (Baltes and Baltes, 1990). Wiese et al. (2002) confirmed the model's success in predicting subjective-wellbeing. Further, the use of SOC-strategies may be of imperative value to adults who have faced loss, as a Chou and Chi (2001) highlight that SOC-use correlates negatively with depression. This is of relevance, as SOC engagement may significantly enhance ageing experience.

Gignac et al. (2002) first applied SOC in health-related conditions, discovering compensation-adaptive and optimization-adaptive behaviours were frequently adopted by adults to deal with disability. Further, Janke et al (2012) investigated self­care strategies utilized by adults with arthritis, revealing themes of self-management and concluding that SOC-processes support individuals in maintaining a sense of self when faced with functional declines. This serves as evidence of SOC's potential to enhance adjustment to ageing, relevant to this study. However, literature which highlights the relevance of SOC in maintaining well-being is relatively scarce and thus, uncertainty around how to apply the model remain. The current study seeks to detect the ways in which SOC-behaviours may be used to support elderly-adults within ageing and add to existing literature.

2.11 Conclusion

Overall, a multitude of factors can be seen to influence the ageing experience and further review is required to determine the interrelatedness of these. The shortage of literature provides the current study with scope, predicting that the interplay of gender, attachment and social support will influence ageing experiences and outcomes.

Chapter Three

Methods

3.1 Design

To satisfy objectives, a mixed-methods design was employed. Qualitative research was utilized to gather rich, meaningful data (Blaxter, 2006), while quantitative data provided descriptive statistics (Bryman, 2001). Five semi-structured interviews were conducted, audio-recorded and transcribed. Interviews were coded using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) and analysed from the perspective of the SOC-model, to uncover parallels and establish meaningful findings. Participant's performance on attachment and social network scales was analysed against emergent themes.

3.2 Participants

3.2.1 Recruitment

Recruitment posters (Appendix 4) outlining the study were distributed around the researcher's neighbourhood. Recruitment conversations were held with those who revealed interest and prospective participants were given information sheets (Appendix 3), outlining the study's objectives, procedure and researcher's details. Upon agreement, a suitable date was arranged, and participants were informed of the location. It was continuously stressed that participation was entirely voluntary.

3.2.2 Sample

Opportunity sampling, which gathers individuals from the desired population who are available and willing to take part (Jupp, 2006), was adopted as the most appropriate recruitment method. Further, snowballing, which involves data sources nominating other potential sources (Jupp, 2006) was utilised. Five participants were selected on the basis of inclusion criteria and demographics. To eliminate bias, an equal weighting of male and females participants was desired. However, three females and two males were recruited. This was still considered worthwhile as IPA suggests smaller samples are suitable in allowing richer analysis (Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2009) and gender conclusions could still be drawn.

3.2.3 Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

Inclusion criteria required being aged 65-80 and widowed within the last five years, to ensure experiences were considered age-related concepts. Non-English-speaking persons were excluded. There was no issue if participants were in new relationships as this could only add to findings. See demographics below:

Table 1: Participant demographics:

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3.3 Materials

3.3.1 Stage One: Short questionnaires

Quantitative research measured participant's performance on self-report scales of attachment (appendix 5) and social connectedness (appendix 6).

3.3.1.1 Relationship Questionnaire

The Relationship Questionnaire (Bartholomew and Horowitz, 1991) was utilized as to give an indication of participant's attachment prototype: secure, fearful, preoccupied or dismissing. Consisting of four short paragraphs, participants rated on a Likert scale which styles they felt were most representative. This measure was employed as it appeared closest to the Adult Attachment Interview (1985).

3.3.1.2 The Lubben Social Network Scale

The Lubben Social Network Scale-6 was considered most appropriate in providing an insight of participant's social network, as it was established specifically for elderly- adults (Lubben, 1988). Participants rated on a Likert scale the number and frequency of social contacts regarding friends and family. Higher scores indicated greater social engagement. Scores below 12 indicated risk of social-isolation.

3.3.2 Stage Two: Semi-structured interviews

Semi-structured interviews were employed to allow flexibility (Bernard, 2011), while maintaining a structured appearance (Wildavsky, 1993). The schedule incorporated fourteen open-ended questions asked in a non-directive style to satisfy idiographic guidelines, alongside supplementary questions for further scope.

3.3.2.1 Rationale behind questions

The interview schedule (appendix 1) was carefully devised upon relevant literature to open discussion around topics of loss, adaptation, illness and vulnerability. The work of Stroebe, Stroebe and Schut (2001) was relevant to the rationale as they explored gender differences in adjustment to loss, alongside Lanier (1996) who examined social support and attachment. The topics generated an exploration of ageing expe rience and impacting variables.

3.4 Procedure

Face-to-face interviews were held in Centrestage, Glasgow, where recruitment took place. To ensure facilitation of talk, a pilot study was conducted. Interviews were audio-recorded on a recording-device and lasted between 30-40 minutes. Data was anonymised, transcribed and held securely for analysis.

3.5 Analysis

The interviews were coded using IPA (table 2) which aims to produce detailed accounts of how individuals perceive their own lived experiences (Langdridge, 2007). IPA is devoted to making sense of participants as individuals rather than disembodied discourses (Larkin, Watts and Clifton, 2996) which is the main reasoning behind its employment. The researcher observed the steps of others (Barritt et al, 1984) to guide analysis and ensure data gave privilege to participant's voice. Evaluating validity and reliability was crucial, and Silverman's (2009) methods of validity and reliability enhancement were employed. Additionally, bridling (Dahlberg, 2008) was utilized to keep pre-conceptions in check.

Table 2: Phases of Analysis

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Interviews were annotated by thorough examination, several readings and underlining passages, making use of the left and right margin code. Any specific events and actions were highlighted.

The data was coded. This involved thoroughly examining each line of data and separating emerging themes and concepts which were highlighted throughout the literature (appendix 8). Silverman's (2000) comprehensive data-use was utilized. If a statement fitted a pre-specified concept, it was attributed this name. Any statements that did not fit pre-specified names but were considered interesting were given new names. These were smaller phrases which concisely captured the essence of responses.

Coding categories were reviewed alongside each evidential statement. Silverman's (2009) constant comparison method was utilised to ensure the statements assigned to codes were worthy of assignment. Many were renamed or rejected at this stage and then categorised hierarchically. Statements previously coded in one category were moved to more appropriate codes.

A second application of recoding and code reviewing took place similar to the previous. Using Silverman's (2005) refutability and deviant-cases analysis, the transcripts were revisited to ensure the categorised statements were correctly coded. As many code names were adhered at this point, there was one more thorough check to ensure any statements which were originally un-coded, remained unnecessary for analysis. Bridling was utilised and categories that emerged from data were contrasted and compared with the others to ensure that distinct collections of quotes were coded correctly and there were no deviant cases. Refutability was checked by looking for evidence which could refute any assumptions made. Statements included in codes which arose from the literature were compared with correct definitions.

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3.6 Ethical considerations

Interviews can be considered an intrusion into participant's lives. Therefore, a high level of ethical consideration must be maintained (Cohen, 2007). Ethical approval was granted from Edinburgh Napier University and participant's informed consent was collected. Participants were continuously reminded of their right to withdraw, and the schedule incorporated positive questions to alleviate negativity. The strict confidentiality of data was assured and held as password-protected documents. Data was anonymised, and participants were given a unique code, so if they wished to withdraw, their data could be accessed and destroyed. Only the researcher and project supervisor have access to data, which is held securely until the end of the marking period. Participants were fully debriefed after completion and provided with contact details of the researcher, supervisor and appropriate support services. Finally, as interviews were held face-to-face, off-campus, any safety risks were addressed by assuring staff were aware of the schedule.

Chapter Four

Results and Discussion

4.1 Introduction

This chapter will present and discuss the findings of the study. Emergent themes will be outlined to provide a summarised representation of experiences. Secondly, individual performance on both attachment and social network scales will be presented against themes to highlight any correlations. The SOC-model is considered throughout and any gender differences that arose are addressed.

4.2 Part One: Themes

Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of five interviews stemmed the emergence of three interconnected themes. The exploration of these and their superordinate themes (see Table 1) will provide a summarized representation of participants ageing experiences, illustrated by verbatim extracts.

It is recognised that themes are a subjective interpretation and one conceivable explanation of experiences which do not cover all aspects, however, were selected due to relevancy.

To improve readability of the extracts, repetitions and hesitations were removed. Identifying information has been altered alongside alias names to protect anonymity.

Table 3: Master Themes and Superordinate Themes

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4.4 “A Sea Change”

This master theme captures the notion that ageing has encompassed a transformation among participant's life. The impact of bereavement, in particular, is defined as a “sea change”, whereby routines have significantly altered, and for some, exists a newfound sense of freedom. While sharp contrasts exist in how this change is perceived, it is prevalent across all accounts.

4.4.1 “Everything changed”: A Totally Different Life

This superordinate theme addresses the significant altercation that ageing has spurred, predominately from loss. Every participant commented upon how significantly their lives had changed. Margaret's definition of life after widowhood, conveys the severity of this transition in a way which summarizes the experience of all participants:

“It is just a total sea change.”

To which she expands:

"Totally, in every single way. Every aspect of my life changed Suddenly, you have nobody to care for but yourself.”

Ben highlights that this is something he is yet to adjust to:

"Just a completely different life. You know, difficult. It never really gets any easier”.

The adoption of phrases like “different life” which were consistent in Laura's and Millie's accounts, convey that the ageing encompasses a significant transition. John's further exemplifies this notion, outlining his difficulties in adjustment:

"It was a big change. At the beginning, I didn't really know what to do with myself really. Big old house and just me left in it.”

These accounts are in line with Hatch (2000)'s claim that widowed individuals encounter greater fluctuations than any other event. All participants reported this “sea change” effect, however, some conveyed this contrastingly to others, which is salient as it touches on themes to follow. Ben demonstrated a pivotal aspect of widowhood which has been touched on in the literature; the adverse effects of widowhood on men and their greater health consequences (Stroebe, Stoebe and Schut, 2001). He explains how his routine has been transformed:

"Everything, really, everything changed... Sleeping habits, eating habits, everything.”

Which he supports with:

".when she died, I was getting up at eight o'clock having my breakfast and going back to bed. Stay there till one o'clock. It would be the afternoon by the time I got up. And it wasnae that I was lying, dreaming or what I was sleeping.

I was sleeping! For hours and hours.”

Outlining the profound effects of widowhood, Ben expresses a fluctuation in normal functioning. Links between depression and excessive sleeping having been highlighted in several studies, flagging as a depressive symptom. Excessive daytime sleepiness has been displayed among depressed patients in many populations (Mume, 2010). As discussed, widowhood has been linked to greater effects on depression for men (Lee, Willetts and Seccombe, 1998) which may explain these detrimental effect. Laura also expresses an altercation in routine:

“Everything changed. Because I used to take him to work every morning, I used to come up in the afternoon, we went out at the weekends, and we went everywhere together. I am just suddenly on my own and there's certain things that I don't know how to do”

Laura conveys a lack of support and notes that she no longer has anyone to call on for help with certain tasks. Her experience sheds light on the gender effects highlighted among literature. Liefbroer and Gierveld (1995) stated that women are often disadvantaged in loss due to traditional gender-role differentiation, and earlier work found women to have less education. This can be seen in Laura's statement:

“..people would say you typical female, but I could cook I could do lots of things, but as for, technology, once I'm on a computer I can do spreadsheets and some word processing, but as for wires and setting things up I haven't got a clue about anything technological and I miss not having somebody to ask, so there is quite a lot of things. I don't really have a lot of help.”

This displays that Laura's life has not only altered due to a switch in routine, but due to the absence of knowledge and support provided by her partner. This may impact outcomes, as a lack of instrumental support is shown to correlate with lower well-being (Cohen and Wills, 1985) and cause distress (Antonucci, 2010) which Laura expressed.

[...]

Excerpt out of 87 pages

Details

Title
How do widowed male and female experiences of age-related changes such as loss, illness, and vulnerability differ in relation to attachment style and social connectedness?
College
Edinburgh Napier University
Grade
68%
Author
Year
2019
Pages
87
Catalog Number
V703470
ISBN (eBook)
9783346174710
ISBN (Book)
9783346174727
Language
English
Notes
An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis
Tags
analysis, interpretive, phenomenological, psychology #qualitative # research
Quote paper
Molly Harper (Author), 2019, How do widowed male and female experiences of age-related changes such as loss, illness, and vulnerability differ in relation to attachment style and social connectedness?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/703470

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Title: How do widowed male and female experiences of age-related changes such as loss, illness, and vulnerability differ in relation to attachment style and social connectedness?



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