Health and Well-being Effects on Later-life Divorce and Subsequent Repartnering

Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin, PIs
Health and Well-being Effects on Later-life Divorce and Subsequent Repartnering (NIA R15)

The later-life divorce rate has doubled in the past two decades, rising from 5 to 10 divorces per 1,000 married population ages 50 and older. More than 1 in 4 people who divorced in 2010 were ages 50+ compared with less than 1 in 10 in 1990. The recent rise in later-life divorce coupled with the aging of the population foregrounds the urgency of investigating the life course factors associated with divorce during older adulthood and the ramifications for individual well-being. It also raises new questions about what happens after a later-life divorce: how common is repartnering, whether through cohabitation or remarriage, and to what extent does repartnering ameliorate any negative effects of divorce on individual well-being? Although later-life divorce is accelerating, social scientists lack a basic understanding of divorce and repartnering that occur during later life. We use prospective, longitudinal data from the 1992-2010 Health and Retirement Study to begin to fill this critical gap. We estimate discrete time event history models to assess the life course factors (e.g., empty nest, retirement, and poor health) that are associated with later-life divorce and subsequent repartnering. And, we use latent growth models to investigate how later-life divorce is linked to trajectories in health and economic well-being, as well as the extent to which repartnering offers appreciable gains in well-being. Throughout the project, we assess variation by gender, marriage order, and cohort. The implications of later-life divorce are substantial, shaping not only the couple but also the well-being of family members, such as children and grandchildren, and the demands placed on broader institutional support systems designed for older adults and their families. Society at large will need to respond to the shifting (and potentially diminishing) family resources and supports that are available to older adults. As such, this project aligns with the research priorities of the NIA described in its strategic plan for research on aging in the 21st century. This project fully incorporates two undergraduate and one graduate research assistant to expose students to all stages of the research process and enhance the BGSU research environment.

PUBLICATIONS

Brown, Susan L., I-Fen Lin, Anna M. Hammersmith, and Matthew R. Wright. 2018. Forthcoming. “Later Life Marital Dissolution and Repartnering Pathways: A National Portrait.” The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 73(6): 1032-2042.

Lin, I-Fen, Susan L. Brown, and Cassandra Jean Cupka. 2018. “A National Portrait of Stepfamilies in Later Life.” The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 73(6): 1043-1054. (Editor’s Choice article)

Lin, I-Fen, Susan L. Brown, Matthew R. Wright, and Anna M. Hammersmith. 2018. “Antecedents of Gray Divorce: A Life Course Perspective.” The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 73(6): 1022-1031.

Lin, I-Fen, Susan L. Brown, and Anna M. Hammersmith. 2017. "Marital Biography, Social Security Receipt, and Poverty." Research on Aging, 39(1): 86-110.

Brown, Susan L., and I-Fen Lin. 2012. "The Gray Divorce Revolution: Rising Divorce Among Middle-Aged and Older Adults, 1990-2010." The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 67(6): 731-741. (Editor's Choice Article) Most read article in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B.

Lin, I-Fen and Susan L. Brown. 2012. “Unmarried Boomers Confront Old Age: A National Portrait.” The Gerontologist, 52(2):153-165. Recipient of IPUMS Research Award

CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS

Lin, I-Fen, Susan L. Brown, Matthew R. Wright, and Anna M. Hammersmith. “Depressive Symptoms Following Gray Divorce and Subsequent Repartnering.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Denver, Colorado, April 26-28, 2018

Wright, Matthew R., Anna M. Hammersmith, Susan L. Brown, and I-Fen Lin. “Marital Dissolution and Subsequent Repartnering on Loneliness in Later Life.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Denver, Colorado, April 26-28, 2018

Brown, Susan L. and Matthew R. Wright. "The Gray Divorce Revolution: Older Adult Attitudes toward Divorce, 1994-2012." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Montreal, QC, Canada, August 12-15, 2017.

Brown, Susan L., I-Fen Lin, Anna M. Hammersmith, and Matthew R. Wright. “Repartnering Following Gray Divorce.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Chicago, Illinois, April 27-29, 2017

Lin, I-Fen, Susan L. Brown, and Cassandra Jean Cupka. “A National Portrait of Stepfamilies in Later Life.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Chicago, Illinois, April 27-29, 2017

Brown, Susan L., I-Fen Lin, Anna M. Hammersmith, and Matthew R. Wright. “Later Life Marital Dissolution and Repartnering Pathways: A National Portrait.” Poster presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Washington, DC, March 31-April 2, 2016

Brown, Susan L., I-Fen Lin, Matthew R. Wright, and Anna M. Hammersmith. “Antecedents of Divorce in Later Life.” Poster presented at the annual scientific meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, Orlando, Florida, November 18-22, 2015

Brown, Susan L., I-Fen Lin, Anna M. Hammersmith, and Matthew R. Wright. “Later Life Marital Dissolution and Repartnering Pathways: A National Portrait.” Poster presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Washington, DC, March 31-April 2, 2016

Brown, Susan L., I-Fen Lin, Matthew R. Wright, and Anna M. Hammersmith. “Antecedents of Divorce in Later Life.” Poster presented at the annual scientific meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, Orlando, Florida, November 18-22, 2015

REPORTS

Kovert, Elizabeth, Matthew R. Wright, Anna M. Hammersmith, Susan L. Brown, and I-Fen Lin. 2017. “The Role of Union Dissolution and Repartnering on Health Later in Life” (FP-17-12). National Center for Family & Marriage Research.

Spangler, Ashley, Susan L. Brown, I-Fen Lin, Anna Hammersmith, and Matthew Wright. 2016. “Divorce Timing and Economic Well-being” (FP-16-01). National Center for Family & Marriage Research.

Spangler, Ashley, Susan L. Brown, I-Fen Lin, Anna Hammersmith, and Matthew Wright. 2015. “Divorce Before vs. After Age 50: A National Portrait” (FP-15-09). National Center for Family & Marriage Research.

Brown, Susan L. and I-Fen Lin. 2014. "Gray Divorce: A Growing Risk Regardless of Class or Education." Council on Contemporary Families, 2014 New Inequalities Online Symposium.

Brown, Susan L., I-Fen Lin, and Krista K. Payne. 2014. "Age Variation in the Divorce Rate, 1990-2012" (FP-14-16). National Center for Family & Marriage Research.

Brown, Susan L. and I-Fen Lin. 2013. "Age Variation in the Remarriage Rate, 1990-2011" (FP-13-17). National Center for Family & Marriage Research.

Brown, Susan L. and I-Fen Lin. 2013. "The Gray Divorce Revolution." The National Council on Family Relations Report Magazine.