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Multiculturalism and Social Work | San Francisco State University

Divorce: Its impact on the older female.

Author: Wineman, Doris N.
Author Background: Inst For Clinical Social Work (Chicago), US
Date 4/2000
Type Dissertation
Journal Title: Dissertation-Abstracts-International-Section-A:-Humanities-and-Social-Sciences
Volume/Pages Vol 60(9-A): 3530
Subject Matter Research, Women, Divorce
Abstract An abundance of sociological and descriptive research exists on women and divorce. However, there is a noticeable absence of psychodynamically based research efforts that explore the impact that divorce has on the self. Eighteen women who were divorced in mid-life were interviewed for a study about divorce and its impact on the older female. Nine of the women in the study initiated their divorces. The spouses initiated the divorces of the other nine participants. All of the women in the study had been married for at least ten years. The study employed the Grounded Theory qualitative research method in order to discover and understand the subjective experience of the divorced mid-life woman, and how the experienced changed over time. Six categories emerged from the analysis of the interviews. 'Early Rumblings' describes the often many years of unhappiness women felt in their marriages. 'The Horror Of It All' captures the experience of the divorce process. 'Suddenly Single' reflects the disorientating experience of the loss of support networks and rejection by married women. 'The Torment Continues' discusses the sense of failure many women experienced. 'Coming Out Of It' refers to the process of finding a new identity and sense of accomplishment. 'When You Least Expect It' identifies and details the ongoing impact of the divorce when children play out their anger over the divorce and loyalty conflicts around holidays and major family events. There were several important findings with implications for the conceptualization of the divorce process and for clinical intervention with divorced women. The research literature tended to assume that the experience of divorce was similar to mourning. The data indicates that for the women in this study the experience was a massive disruption of narcissistic equilibrium that is repeatedly reactivated that is more closely related to trauma. The initial impact of the divorce, additional injury of rejection by married women, and a deep sense of failure modulated over time. However, the action of children around holidays, weddings and other family events reactivated feelings of rejection turning these events into a confusing, disorientating and unhappy time. The conceptualization of divorce as trauma, the reactivation of these feelings across the life span offers the potential for a more effective, in-depth and empathic clinical treatment of divorced middle aged women. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2000 APA, all rights reserved)