Older divorced and widowed parents’ decisions at the start of a new partner relationship: monitoring and anticipating children's behaviors and attitudes. Results from quantitative and qualitative research

Jenny Gierveld, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)
Eva-Maria Merz, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)

Using panel data from the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study (NKPS), wave 1 (N = 8,148) and wave 2 (N = 6,670), this study investigates several aspects of the process of repartnering of divorced and widowed older adults. Earlier research has shown that starting a new partner relationship is helpful in alleviating loneliness and many older adults without partners are interested to start a new intimate bond. However, the NKPS data showed that part of the older adults who started a new partner relationship opted for unmarried cohabitation or remarriage, others started a (long term) lat relationship. This study examined the determinants of lat versus unmarried cohabitation or remarriage via multivariate analyses. Data showed sharp differences between respondents: parents more frequently opt for longstanding lat relationships, childless older adults more frequently opt for transitional lat relationships followed by unmarried cohabitation or remarriage. Additionally, and based on in-depth interviewing of a selection of the NKPS parents who repartnered (n of the qualitative mini panel = 46; mean age is 65), parents’ considerations behind the decision for lat or for sharing a new composite household were investigated. In this paper particularly the intergenerational bonds between older parents and their children was studied. Data showed that a majority of parents was involved in ‘boundary work’: parents tended to take into account the (anticipated) negative comments and behavior of their children concerning the new partner, by explicitly aiming at protecting the family realms from intruders. Other parents explicitly refrained from this boundary work and provided motives for prioritizing their own (future) well-being by forming a new (composite) household with the new partner.

Presented in Session 19: Step families