College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

Title

Parameters of Marriage in Older Adults: A Review of the Literature

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1995

Publication Title

Clinical Psychology Review

ISSN

0272-7358

Volume

15

Issue/No.

8

Abstract

Three parameters of marriage and their effects on the marital relationship in older adults are reviewed. Studies evaluating the impact of retirement on the marital relationship indicate that the retirement transition is a “generally positive” experience for older adults who are in good health, have an adequate income, and a history of marital compatibility. Maintenance of this positive transition into retirement seems to be dependent on a balance between temporal structuring, purposive activity, and a continuance of social contacts. Investigations of the impact of illness on the marital relationship indicate that the emotional or physical illness of either spouse can cause disequilibrium in the relationship. Decrements in the health of either spouse yield an adverse effect on marital quality. Additionally, the impact is greater on perceptions of marital happiness for the healthy partner than for the partner who is ill. Studies examining the impact of sexual dysfunction on the marital relationship are lacking. Scarcity of work in this area appears to be due, in part, to prevailing cultural myths that older adults are physically incapable of sex, have no sexual desire, and are physically unattractive. Yet, a few empirical efforts indicate that sexual relations are not only common among elderly persons, but that, particularly in the marital relationship, sexuality becomes an important source of gratification in a world where gratification of any sort is diminishing.

Additional Comments

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DOI

10.1016/0272-7358(95)00051-8