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Widowhood

Kate Davidson


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There has been a slow but discernible increase in sociological interest in the experience of widowhood in later life in the last three decades of the twentieth century, which has come about as a result of two major western world trends: demography and feminism. People are living longer, and as a result of a decrease in birth rates, the proportion of older people in the population is steadily increasing. For example, in the UK, the 2001 census data revealed that 48 percent of women compared to 17 percent of men over the age of 65 were widowed. Second wave feminism's imperative has been to examine women's experiences and circumstances, and to reflect on what societal norms and values inform meaning and self-conceptualization in relation to being female. Gradually now, feminism is addressing the issue of aging. The conjunction of these two trends has seen the steady emergence, particularly in North America, of sociological study of widowhood as experienced by women ( Lopata 1996 ). However, minimal sociological attention has been paid to the lives of widowed men, primarily because of their relative invisibility, both numerically and in welfare distribution statistics. The research there has been on widowers has principally focused on the health outcomes and psychological disorientation caused by an unanticipated disjunction: a husband does not expect to predecease his wife. Nevertheless, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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