ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

A growing proportion of women reach older age without having married or having children. Assumptions that these older women are lonely, impoverished, and high users of social and health services are based on little evidence. This paper uses data from the Older cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health to describe self-reported demographics, physical and emotional health, and use of services among 10,108 women aged 73-78, of whom 2.7% are never-married and childless. The most striking characteristic of this group is their high levels of education, which are associated with fewer reported financial difficulties and higher rates of private health insurance. There are few differences in self-reported physical or emotional health or use of health services between these and other groups of older women. Compared with older married women with children, they make higher use of formal services such as home maintenance and meal services, and are also more likely to provide volunteer services and belong to social groups. Overall, there is no evidence to suggest that these women are a "problem" group. Rather, it seems that their life experiences and opportunities prepare them for a successful and productive older age.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Social Science & Medicine 62 (2006) 1991–2001
Never-married childless women in Australia: Health and social
circumstances in older age
Julie Cwikel
a,b
, Helen Gramotnev
c
, Christina Lee
c,
a
Center for Women’s Health Studies and Promotion, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
b
Key Centre for Women’s Health in Society, The University of Melbourne, Australia
c
School of Psychology and School of Population Health, University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia
Available online 12 October 2005
Abstract
A growing proportion of women reach older age without having married or having children. Assumptions that these
older women are lonely, impoverished, and high users of social and health services are based on little evidence. This paper
uses data from the Older cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health to describe self-reported
demographics, physical and emotional health, and use of services among 10,108 women aged 73–78, of whom 2.7% are
never-married and childless. The most striking characteristic of this group is their high levels of education, which are
associated with fewer reported financial difficulties and higher rates of private health insurance. There are few differences
in self-reported physical or emotional health or use of health services between these and other groups of older women.
Compared with older married women with children, they make higher use of formal services such as home maintenance
and meal services, and are also more likely to provide volunteer services and belong to social groups. Overall, there is no
evidence to suggest that these women are a ‘‘problem’’ group. Rather, it seems that their life experiences and opportunities
prepare them for a successful and productive older age.
r2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Women; Aging; Childless; Never-married; Australia
Introduction
Remaining unmarried throughout adult life is
widely viewed as anomalous, despite the fact that
many women never marry. In the USA, the
percentage of women who had not married by age
35 remained steady at around 15% for the first half
of the twentieth century, dropped to 7% between
1950 and 1970, and is now climbing again (Baldwin
& Nord, 1984). In the 1990s, approximately 8% of
women in their 70s or 80s had never married (Hess
& Waring, 1983;Hooyman & Kiyak, 1991), and the
proportion of women who never marry or have a
child seems likely to increase in developed countries
(Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002;Hooyman &
Kiyak, 1991;Wolf, Laditka, & Laditka, 2002).
Being never-married does not necessarily mean
being childless, and currently a significant number
of mothers remain unmarried. In 1998, more than
half the births in Norway and Sweden were to
unmarried women, while the rate was one in three in
the USA (National Center for Health Statistics,
2000). The aim of this paper is to describe the health
ARTICLE IN PRESS
www.elsevier.com/locate/socscimed
0277-9536/$ - see front matter r2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.09.006
Corresponding author.
E-mail address: c.lee@psy.uq.edu.au (C. Lee).
and social circumstances of older never-married
Australian women who are now in their 70s. For
this cohort, unmarried mothers faced social and
economic difficulties, and pressure to give the child
for adoption (Jones, 2000), and a vast majority of
never-married women of this age did not have
children.
Research on marriage and well-being among
older people often focuses on current living
arrangements, combining the never-married with
the widowed or divorced. However, a lifecourse
approach to human development assumes that
childhood and early adult experience shape func-
tioning in old age, and suggests that never-married
people approach older age with a different set of
skills and attitudes from those who lived in families
for most of their adult lives (Caspi & Elder, 1986;
Gatz, Harris, & Turk-Charles, 1995).
Marriage and children continue to be viewed as
normal and desirable for women. Australian data
(Lee et al., 2005) show that 96% of young women
want to be married or in stable de facto relation-
ships, and 91% want children; 96% of middle-aged
women are or have been married and 92% are
mothers; and of older women, 94% are or have been
married, and 91% are mothers. Older single women
are often assumed to be in poor emotional health,
and a social burden and drain on public resources
(Wells & Freer, 1988); however, there is little
empirical evidence for this claim.
Based on traditional theories of development,
early studies of unmarried, childless women as-
sumed that they must be unfulfilled and unhappy
(Spurlock, 1990). Contemporary research (Wolf
et al., 2002) has shown that single women show
considerable adaptability and well-being in old age.
Data from several countries (e.g., Koropeckyj-Cox,
1998;Zhang & Hayward, 2001) suggest that never-
married women, like the currently married, tend to
have better adjustment in old age than the
previously married.
Despite assumptions that marriage and children
are more central to emotional well-being for women
than they are for men, never-married women show
better adjustment than never-married men do. In a
Welsh study of ageing (Wenger, 2001), never-
married men tended to be solitary and rely on
female relatives for care, while never-married
women were more independent and socially con-
nected. In the USA, Zhang and Hayward (2001)
showed that never-married men had higher levels of
depression and loneliness than did never-married
women, while a Dutch study found that older never-
married men were three times as likely to use formal
support services as older never-married women
(Wister & Dykstra, 2000).
The evidence on the physical health of never-
married women is mixed. Unmarried women gen-
erally have higher all-cause mortality and worse
physical health than the married (e.g., Cheung,
1998;Johnson, Backlund, Sorlie, & Loveless, 2000);
longitudinal research with middle-aged women (e.g.,
Waldron, Hughes, & Brooks, 1996) indicates that
this can be explained both by selection—healthy
women are more likely to marry and to remain
married—and protection—marriage tends to im-
prove women’s health. These effects, however, are
found only among women who do not have paid
work, suggesting that marriage and paid work may
provide similar benefits and can perhaps substitute
for each other (Waldron et al., 1996). Furthermore,
these results are based on women across the lifespan
and the situation for women who have reached old
age may be quite different.
Living alone has been shown to reduce survival
among older men, but has no independent effect on
the survival of women (Davis, Neuhaus, Moritz, &
Segal, 1992) despite the fact that women living alone
are vulnerable to poverty, social isolation, and
inadequate diet (Davis, Murphy, Neuhaus, Gee, &
Quiroga, 2000). A Canadian study (Wu & Pollard,
1998) has shown that older childless never-married
individuals may lack emotional and instrumental
support, but women generally maintain better social
networks than men.
Analysis of data from the US 1984–1990 Long-
itudinal Study of Aging estimated remaining unim-
paired years of life for different groups of older
women. Never-married, more-educated White wo-
men lived the longest, healthiest lives (Wolf et al.,
2002), indicating the interaction between such
variables as ethnicity, economic status, and educa-
tional attainment in predicting well-being in old age.
In this cohort, never-married women were most
likely to have had continuous employment and
career progression (Keating & Jeffrey, 1983). How-
ever, a cross-national study of 12 industrial coun-
tries showed that never-married women were still
concentrated in lower-paying, lower-status occupa-
tions than men (Roos, 1983). The historical context
of these findings is important: women who are now
in their 70s have experienced legal and socially
sanctioned restrictions on educational and employ-
ment opportunities, with additional restrictions for
ARTICLE IN PRESS
J. Cwikel et al. / Social Science & Medicine 62 (2006) 1991–20011992
married women. Never-married older women are
thus likely to be better educated than those who
have married (e.g., Hoeffer, 1987), and women with
higher educational attainment and incomes tend to
have more extensive social networks.
Childlessness is important for planning an ageing
society: without family to provide informal caregiv-
ing, policymakers assume that childless, never-
married women may over-tax formal health and
welfare services or require early institutionalization
(e.g., Connidis, 1994;de Jong-Gierveld, Kamphuis,
& Dykstra, 1987;Johnson & Troll, 1992). In
Australia in 1996, 22% of childless women aged
75 and over were living in long-term care, compared
with 14% of women who had children (Australian
Bureau of Statistics, 1996).
On the one hand, older never-married women
demonstrate good emotional health, with strong
social networks, and those with a history of
education and employment are likely to cope with
older age with resilience. On the other hand, there
are suggestions that never-married women are in
poor health and reliant on publicly funded services
to provide care.
This paper explores variables across several
domains (demographics, physical health, health
behaviours, mental health, and service use) through
an analysis of data from a large and nationally
representative sample of older women participating
in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s
Health (ALSWH). Never-married women in their
70s are compared with four groups of their
contemporaries: currently married women who have
and who have not had children; and previously
married women who have and who have not had
children. The aim is to describe their lives and reflect
on the extent to which health and welfare services
may need to target this growing demographic
group.
Method
Background
The ALSWH examines the relationship between
physical, psychological, social, and lifestyle factors
and women’s physical health, emotional well-being,
and use of health services. The project involves three
nationally representative age cohorts of women,
who were aged 18–23 (younger), 45–50 (mid-age)
and 70–75 (older) when first surveyed in 1996, and
who will be followed longitudinally for 20 years.
Details of cohorts and methods are available
elsewhere (Lee et al., 2005).
Copies of all surveys, and details of measures and
derived variables can be found on the web at http://
www.sph.uq.edu.au/alswh. Categories used for each
of the categorical variables in this analysis appear in
Table 1.
Participants
This analysis focuses on women who responded
to Survey 1 of the Older cohort in 1996 (aged 70–75)
and to Survey 2 in 1999 (aged 73–78). A total of
12,940 women, representative of the Australian
female population aged 70–75, completed Survey 1
in 1996. Of these, 90.2% were sent Survey 2 in 1999
(the remainder were deceased, unable to respond, or
had not provided adequate contact details) and
10,434 (89.3%) responded.
Measures
Criterion variable
Women were divided into five categories: never-
married women who have never given birth (Never
Married); currently married or cohabiting women
who have never given birth (Married, No Children);
separated, widowed or divorced women who have
never given birth (Previously Married, No Chil-
dren); currently married or cohabiting women who
have given birth at least once (Married, With
Children), and previously married women who have
given birth at least once (Previously Married, With
Children).
Demographics
Demographic variables included level of educa-
tion, country of birth, rurality of area of residence,
private health insurance, ability to manage on
income, provision of care to a family member, and
receipt of care.
Physical health and health behaviours
The eight subscales of the Australian standard
version of the SF-36 (McCallum, 1995) were used as
continuous measures of health-related quality of
life. Other, categorical, measures of physical health
were number of common serious medical conditions
diagnosed (e.g., heart disease, arthritis), hospital
admission in the previous year, number of GP
(family physician) visits in the previous year,
number of surgical procedures in the previous 3
ARTICLE IN PRESS
J. Cwikel et al. / Social Science & Medicine 62 (2006) 1991–2001 1993
ARTICLE IN PRESS
Table 1
Distributions of categorical variables across groups defined by marital and childbearing status
Never Married Married, No
Children
Previously Married,
No Children
Married, With
Children
Previously Married,
With Children
w
2
N¼271 N¼329 N¼260 N¼4859 N¼4375
Demographics
Education
0–9 13.1 24.4 28.6 30.3 35.7 171.07
10 35.9 41.3 33.9 41.0 38.7
11–12 13.5 15.6 19.0 12.5 12.4
Post-secondary 37.5 18.7 18.6 16.2 13.3
Country of birth
Australia 90.4 73.1 79.5 78.5 78.5 47.14
Other English
speaking
7.7 13.8 7.8 13.6 12.6
Non-English
speaking
1.9 13.1 12.7 8.0 8.9
Area of residence
Urban 51.7 45.0 42.7 38.8 40.4 30.51
Large rural 11.1 11.6 12.0 12.1 13.5
Small rural/remote 37.3 43.5 45.4 49.2 46.1
Private health insurance
Yes 68.6 57.4 58.0 56.6 52.4 34.94
No 31.4 42.6 42.0 43.4 47.6
Manage on income
Easy 34.7 22.8 27.0 25.3 19.6 174.67
Not bad 48.6 57.8 46.1 54.3 49.2
Some difficulty 12.8 15.3 20.8 16.6 23.8
Always difficult/
impossible
4.0 4.1 6.2 3.9 7.4
Care provider
Yes 19.8 28.2 18.4 25.3 16.3 109.70
No 80.2 71.8 81.6 74.7 83.7
Care recipient
Yes 11.0 11.2 8.0 11.1 9.6 7.42
No 89.0 88.8 92.0 88.9 90.5
Physical health/health behaviours
Number of major diagnoses
0 33.0 27.7 16.4 22.3 21.6 50.13
1–2 49.4 51.1 64.1 56.3 53.4
3+ 17.6 21.2 19.5 21.4 25.0
Admitted to hospital previous year
No 72.8 72.9 75.1 73.5 70.6 10.09
Yes 27.2 27.1 24.9 26.5 29.4
GP visits previous year
0 3.4 3.1 0.8 1.8 2.0 25.07
1–2 14.5 14.4 14.1 12.9 13.0
3–4 32.0 27.5 30.9 28.2 25.9
5–8 25.7 29.1 28.1 27.9 28.0
9+ 24.5 26.0 26.2 29.3 31.1
Surgical procedures previous 3 years
0 57.9 57.1 52.3 54.7 56.2 4.21
1+ 42.1 42.9 47.7 45.3 43.8
J. Cwikel et al. / Social Science & Medicine 62 (2006) 1991–20011994
years, whether they had had a fall requiring medical
treatment in the previous year, and number of
common symptoms (from a list of 22, e.g., head-
aches, back pain) experienced ‘‘often’’ in the
previous year. Body mass index (BMI) from self-
reported height and weight, smoking status, alcohol
ARTICLE IN PRESS
Table 1 (continued )
Never Married Married, No
Children
Previously Married,
No Children
Married, With
Children
Previously Married,
With Children
w
2
N¼271 N¼329 N¼260 N¼4859 N¼4375
Fall requiring medical attention previous year
Yes 22.3 15.9 17.9 17.5 18.5 5.98
No 77.7 84.1 82.1 82.5 81.5
Number of symptoms
0 53.1 55.0 48.9 52.3 51.4 15.69
1–2 25.8 24.3 30.4 28.2 28.4
3–4 12.2 15.2 11.9 11.4 11.1
5+ 8.9 5.5 8.9 8.2 9.2
Body mass index category
o20 (under) 11.5 9.4 9.9 7.0 8.1 32.56
20–o25 (healthy) 46.8 47.7 49.4 47.3 43.3
25–o30 (over) 31.4 30.2 30.0 32.7 33.6
30+ (obese) 10.3 12.8 10.7 13.0 15.1
Smoking
Never 69.2 58.2 55.1 67.1 61.9 55.19
Ex 27.3 36.4 36.2 29.1 32.2
Current 3.5 5.4 8.7 3.8 5.9
Alcohol consumption
Non-drinker 42.2 30.8 36.9 32.8 35.9 59.78
Rarely 21.7 20.4 25.0 26.2 28.9
Low risk 30.9 44.3 35.6 36.5 32.3
Risky 5.2 4.5 2.5 4.5 3.0
Physical activity
None 27.7 35.9 23.2 34.0 31.9 35.50
Low 38.6 29.2 36.1 29.2 30.0
Moderate 15.3 16.9 11.6 16.1 16.6
High 18.5 18.0 29.2 20.8 21.5
Mental health
Satisfaction with social support
Satisfied 57.2 58.7 61.5 67.5 71.6 60.10
Dissatisfied 42.8 41.3 38.5 32.5 28.4
Service use
Number of services used
0 61.6 77.5 53.5 62.2 75.8 249.64
1 27.7 16.4 30.0 24.2 15.7
2+ 10.7 6.1 16.5 13.6 8.6
Social group membership
Yes 15.5 8.8 15.0 9.5 15.3 78.97
No 84.5 91.2 85.0 90.5 84.8
Provide volunteer services
Yes 66.1 47.7 55.8 46.6 49.2 42.65
No 33.9 52.3 44.2 53.4 50.8
po0:005.
J. Cwikel et al. / Social Science & Medicine 62 (2006) 1991–2001 1995
consumption status (National Health and Medical
Research Council, 2002), and physical activity
(Brown & Bauman, 2000) were also assessed by
self-report.
Mental health
Standardized psychometric scales included the
Perceived Stress Questionnaire for Older Women
(see Bell & Lee, 2002, 2003), the Life Orientation
Test—Revised (Scheier, Carver, & Bridges, 1994),
which measures optimism, the control subscale of
the Health-Related Hardiness Scale (Pollock &
Duffy, 1990), a measure of neighbourhood satisfac-
tion (Young, Russell, & Powers, 2004), and a 10-
item version of the Duke Social Support Index
(DSSI) (Koenig et al., 1993), which provides a
continuous score for social network size and a
dichotomous variable for satisfaction with support.
Services
Respondents indicated whether they had used
various formal services (e.g., meal deliveries, home
nursing) in the previous 6 months, whether they had
participated in any formal social groups (e.g.,
Country Women’s Association) in the previous six
months, and whether they provided volunteer
services for community or social organizations.
Analytic strategy
The aim of the analysis was to provide a cross-
sectional description of the health and circum-
stances of the five categories of older women.
Univariate analyses (w
2
or one-way analysis of
variance) with a¼0:005 were used to determine
which variables showed differences between the
groups (Tables 1 and 2). For categorical variables,
multinomial logistic regression was conducted with
adjustment for level of education and for country of
ARTICLE IN PRESS
Table 2
Distributions of continuous variables across groups defined by marital and childbearing status
Never
Married
Married, No
Children
Previously Married,
No Children
Married, With
Children
Previously Married,
With Children
F-statistic
N¼271 N¼329 N¼260 N¼4859 N¼4375
SF36: bodily pain 67.6 65.1 66.1 65.6 66.0 F¼0:46
[25.7] [26.4] [26.5] [26.9] [27.5]
SF36: general health 67.0 66.3 66.7 67.0 66.8 F¼0:16
[21.1] [21.4] [21.4] [20.9] [21.4]
SF36: physical functioning 61.1 61.5 63.5 63.9 61.9 F¼4:09
[26.1] [26.4] [25.6] [25.3] [26.5]
SF36: role physical 56.5 56.9 56.4 56.6 56.8 F¼0:01
[40.4] [41.2] [41.0] [41.8] [41.9]
SF36: mental health 81.5 78.5 77.7 79.6 78.7 F¼3:55
[14.5] [15.9] [17.3] [15.8] [16.6]
SF36: role emotional 83.2 80.7 77.8 79.4 77.6 F¼2:87
[30.4] [33.8] [33.5] [34.5] [35.7]
SF36: social functioning 83.8 81.1 82.4 83.3 82.3 F¼1:47
[24.1] [27.2] [25.7] [24.9] [25.3]
SF36: vitality 59.2 58.5 59.5 59.0 58.8 F¼0:12
[20.2] [20.5] [20.9] [20.9] [21.2]
Stress 0.27 0.38 0.33 0.38 0.36 F¼4:01
[0.31] [0.43] [0.36] [0.43] [0.43]
Social networks 9.1 8.7 9.1 8.9 9.2 F¼26:38
[1.7] [1.7] [1.6] [1.5] [1.5]
Optimism 3.27 3.13 3.16 3.16 3.12 F¼6:20
[0.61] [0.61] [0.64] [0.64] [0.63]
Hardiness 4.05 4.01 4.06 4.05 4.04 F¼0:48
[0.63] [0.61] [0.61] [0.59] [0.58]
Neighbourhood satisfaction 27.89 27.69 28.02 27.59 27.63 F¼0:74
[4.39] [4.40] [4.44] [4.30] [4.65]
po0:005.
J. Cwikel et al. / Social Science & Medicine 62 (2006) 1991–20011996
ARTICLE IN PRESS
Table 3
Odds ratios [95% confidence intervals], with adjustment for education and country of birth, from multinomial logistic regression, with
Married With Children as the reference group. Significant odds ratios are shown in bold type. Reference categories are indicated with
asterisks
Variable Never Married Married, No
Children
Previously Married,
No Children
Previously Married, With
Children
N¼271 N¼329 N¼260 N¼4375
Area of residence
Urban* 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Large rural 0.70 0.90 0.91 1.08
[0.46–1.07] [0.61–1.32] [0.59–1.41] [0.94–1.24]
Small rural/remote 0.55 0.85 0.92 0.88
[0.42–0.73] [0.66–1.09] [0.69–1.21] [0.80–0.96]
Private hospital insurance
Yes* 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
No 0.73 0.95 0.98 1.15
[0.55–0.97] [0.73–1.22] [0.74–1.31] [1.05–1.27]
Manage on income
Easy* 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Not bad 0.71 1.17 0.79 1.16
[0.53–0.96] [0.86–1.57] [0.57–1.09] [1.03–1.30]
Some difficulty 0.67 1.03 1.18 1.85
[0.44–1.02] [0.69–1.54] [0.79–1.76] [1.61–2.13]
Always difficult/impossible 0.91 1.17 1.41 2.33
[0.46–1.81] [0.60–2.26] [0.76–2.63] [1.87–2.91]
Care provider
Yes 0.70 1.12 0.66 0.60
[0.51–0.97] [0.86–1.47] [0.47–0.94] [0.54–0.67]
No* 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Number of major diagnoses
0* 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
1–2 0.63 0.73 1.54 0.97
[0.47–0.85] [0.55–0.96] [1.07–2.22] [0.87–1.08]
3–17 0.65 0.84 1.38 1.20
[0.44–0.94] [0.60–1.17] [0.90–2.13] [1.06–1.37]
Body mass index category
o20 (under) 1.50 1.53 1.56 1.23
[0.98–2.30] [1.03–2.27] [1.01–2.42] [1.04–1.46]
20–o25 (healthy)* 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
25–o30 (over) 0.87 0.85 0.94 1.10
[0.63–1.21] [0.64–1.14] [0.68–1.30] [0.99–1.23]
30+ (obese) 0.91 1.02 0.72 1.13
[0.58–1.42] [0.70–1.48] [0.44–1.16] [0.98–1.30]
Smoking
Never* 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Ex 0.91 1.38 1.54 1.23
[0.67–1.22] [1.07–1.78] [1.15–2.06] [1.11–1.36]
Current 0.95 1.65 3.02 1.71
[0.46–1.97] [0.96–2.83] [1.83–5.00] [1.38–2.13]
Alcohol consumption
Non-drinker* 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Low risk 0.53 1.28 0.83 0.85
[0.38–0.72] [0.96–1.72] [0.60–1.15] [0.76–0.95]
Rarely 0.58 0.80 0.85 1.03
[0.41–0.82] [0.56–1.14] [0.59–1.21] [0.92–1.16]
J. Cwikel et al. / Social Science & Medicine 62 (2006) 1991–2001 1997
birth (Table 3), in order to control for the effects of
these early life influences on older adult well-being
and functioning. For continuous variables, analysis
of variance was conducted, again adjusting for the
effects of level of education and country of birth
(Table 4).
Analysis of data from Survey 1 was also
conducted. Results at Surveys 1 and 2 were very
ARTICLE IN PRESS
Table 3 (continued )
Variable Never Married Married, No
Children
Previously Married,
No Children
Previously Married, With
Children
N¼271 N¼329 N¼260 N¼4375
Risky 0.62 1.08 0.57 0.68
[0.31–1.21] [0.58–2.03] [0.24–1.32] [0.53–0.88]
Physical activity
None* 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Low 1.40 0.83 1.69 1.13
[1.00–1.95] [0.61–1.13] [1.17–2.43] [1.01–1.27]
Moderate 1.00 0.90 0.87 1.15
[0.65–1.52] [0.62–1.29] [0.52–1.45] [1.00–1.32]
High 0.89 0.71 2.05 1.16
[0.60–1.34] [0.49–1.01] [1.40–3.00] [1.02–1.32]
Satisfaction with social support
Satisfied* 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Dissatisfied 2.18 1.86 1.67 1.19
[1.68–2.83] [1.47–2.36] [1.27–2.19] [1.08–1.30]
Service use
0* 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
12.17 1.03 2.70 1.95
[1.62–2.91] [0.75–1.41] [1.99–3.65] [1.74–2.17]
2+ 1.51 0.68 2.72 2.06
[0.98–2.31] [0.41–1.10] [1.87–3.96] [1.79–2.38]
Social group membership
Yes 1.51 0.93 1.77 1.78
[1.05–2.18] [0.62–1.40] [1.23–2.55] [1.56–2.03]
No* 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Provide volunteer services
Yes 1.72 1.06 1.43 1.15
[1.30–2.28] [0.82–1.36] [1.08–1.91] [1.05–1.27]
No* 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Table 4
Means and Fratios, adjusted for education and country of birth, for continuous variables significant at univariate level at 0.005
Never Married Married, No
Children
Previously
Married, No
Children
Married, With
Children
Previously
Married, With
Children
F-statistic
N¼271 N¼329 N¼260 N¼4859 N¼4375
SF36: physical functioning 59.26 61.21 62.77 63.95 62.33 3.67
Stress 0.27 0.37 0.33 0.38 0.36 3.46
Social networks 8.88 8.64 9.08 8.85 9.20 26.58
Optimism 2.66 2.60 2.58 2.63 2.58 7.42
po0:005.
J. Cwikel et al. / Social Science & Medicine 62 (2006) 1991–20011998
similar, except that several additional variables had
been included at Survey 2; thus, only results of
Survey 2 are reported here.
Results
Criterion variable
Overall, 10,108 (96.9%) of the respondents could
be categorized. Fourteen women who indicated that
they had never married but were mothers were
excluded from analysis. The categories were Never
Married (N¼271, 2.7%); Married, No Children
(N¼329, 3.3%); Previously Married, No Children
(N¼260, 2.6%); Married, With Children
(N¼4375, 43.3%); and Previously Married, With
Children (N¼4859, 48.1%). The two Previously
Married groups were mainly widows (89%), 8%
divorced and 3% separated.
Univariate analyses
Univariate analyses showed significant differences
for 19 of the 34 selected variables, at po0:005.
Table 1 shows distributions and w
2
for all catego-
rical variables. As expected, never-married childless
women had significantly higher levels of education,
and were significantly more likely to be Australian
born, than other women, supporting the decision to
adjust for these variables. Table 2 presents means
and F-statistics for continuous variables.
Effects following adjustment for education and
country of birth
Thirteen significant categorical variables were
entered into multinomial logistic regression, with
adjustment for education and country of birth (see
Table 3). Four significant continuous variables were
analysed using three-factor analysis of variance with
interaction effects suppressed. Table 4 shows the
main effect for the criterion variable, and means
adjusted for the other two factors (education and
country of birth).
Discussion
This paper uses survey data from a large,
nationally representative group of Australian wo-
men to examine the demographics, physical health,
emotional well-being, and use of services of older,
childless, never-married women, by comparison
with others. The data show a strong difference in
levels of education: almost 40% of never-married
women have post-secondary qualifications, com-
pared with 13–19% of the other groups. The data
indicate that older never-married women are more
active as members of social groups than other older
women are. They make higher use of formal services
than do currently married women, but so too do the
previously married groups.
Overall, there is no evidence from this self-report
survey to suggest that older never-married childless
women are in poor physical or emotional health, or
that they are high users of medical services.
While they are less likely to be providing family
caregiving, they are considerably more likely to
provide volunteer services. They make greater use of
formal services—presumably because needs are not
met by family—yet are coping financially and likely
to have private health insurance. Thus, the view that
these women constitute a social burden is not
supported.
It should be noted that, in this analysis, categor-
ization was on the basis of a single question about
marriage status, and many women who are classi-
fied as never-married may be, or have been,
partnered. Women who reported currently living
in de facto relationships were included as ‘‘mar-
ried’’, but others—for example, those who had
previously lived in de facto relationships or are in
long-term same-sex relationships—were not in-
cluded. A further limitation is the reliance on self-
report, which may have introduced some biases into
the analysis.
When these older women were making
decisions about their adult lives, marriage and
motherhood interfered with education and
employment in a way which is no longer the case.
For this cohort, it is not clear whether any
particular woman gained education by default,
because she was unable to follow her preferred path
of marriage and motherhood, or chose not to marry
because she did not want to forego education and
employment.
The data suggest that older never-married women
in Australia do not constitute a social burden or
‘‘problem’’ group. Rather, it seems that their life
experiences and opportunities prepare them for a
successful and productive old age; as a well-
functioning cohort, they appear able to make a
significant contribution to society and to their
similar-aged peers who may not have developed
the same coping strategies over the years.
ARTICLE IN PRESS
J. Cwikel et al. / Social Science & Medicine 62 (2006) 1991–2001 1999
Acknowledgements
The research on which this paper is based was
conducted as part of the Australian Longitudinal
Study on Women’s Health, The University of
Newcastle and The University of Queensland. We
are grateful to the Commonwealth Department of
Health and Ageing for funding, and the women who
provided the survey data.
References
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (1996). Census of population and
housing: Ageing in Australia. Canberra: Australia Bureau of
Statistics.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2002). Australian social trends
2002—Family formation—trends in childlessness (pp. 1–5).
Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Baldwin, W. H., & Nord, C. W. (1984). Delayed childbearing in
the US: Facts and fictions. Population Bulletin,39(4), 1–42.
Bell, S., & Lee, C. (2002). Development of the perceived stress
questionnaire for young women. Psychology, Health and
Medicine,7, 189–201.
Bell, S., & Lee, C. (2003). Perceived stress revisited: The Women’s
Health Australia project Young cohort. Psychology, Health
and Medicine,8, 343–353.
Brown, W. J., & Bauman, A. E. (2000). Comparison of estimates
of population levels of physical activity using two measures.
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health,24,
520–525.
Caspi, A., & Elder, G. H. (1986). Life satisfaction in old age:
Linking social psychology and history. Psychology and Aging,
1, 18–26.
Cheung, Y. B. (1998). Can marital selection explain the
differences in health between married and divorced people?
From a longitudinal study of a British birth cohort. Public
Health,112, 113–117.
Connidis, I. A. (1994). Sibling support in older age. Journals of
Gerontology B,49(6), S309–S317.
Davis, M., Neuhaus, J., Moritz, D., & Segal, M. (1992).
Living arrangements and survival among middle-aged
and older adults in the NHANES I epidemiologic
follow-up study. American Journal of Public Health,82(3),
401–406.
Davis, M., Murphy, S. P., Neuhaus, J., Gee, L., & Quiroga, S. S.
(2000). Living arrangements affect dietary quality for U.S.
adults aged 50 years and older: NHANES III 1988–1994.
Journal of Nutrition,130, 2256–2264.
de Jong-Gierveld, J., Kamphuis, F., & Dykstra, P. (1987). Old
and lonely? Comprehensive Gerontology B,1(1), 13–17.
Gatz, M., Harris, J. R., & Turk-Charles, S. (1995). The meaning
of health for older women. In A. L. Stanton, & S. J. Gallant
(Eds.), The psychology of women’s health: Progress and
challenges in research and application (pp. 491–529). Wa-
shington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Hess, B., & Waring, J. (1983). Family relationships of older
women: A women’s issue. In E. Markson (Ed.), Older women.
Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.
Hoeffer, B. (1987). Predictors of life outlook of older single
women. Research in Nursing & Health,10(2), 111–117.
Hooyman, N. R., & Kiyak, H. A. (1991). Social gerontology: A
multidisciplinary perspective. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Johnson, C. L., & Troll, L. (1992). Family functioning in late late
life. Journals of Gerontology B,47(2), S66–S72.
Johnson, N. J., Backlund, E., Sorlie, P. D., & Loveless, C. A.
(2000). Marital status and mortality: The national long-
itudinal mortality study. Annals of Epidemiology,10(4),
224–238.
Jones, C. (2000). Adoption: A study of post-war child removal in
New South Wales. Journal of the Royal Australian Historical
Society,86, 51–64.
Keating, N., & Jeffrey, B. (1983). Work careers of ever married
and never married retired women. Gerontologist,23(4),
416–421.
Koenig, H. G., Westlund, R. E., George, L. K., Hughes, D. C.,
Blazer, D. G., & Hybels, C. (1993). Abbreviating the Duke
Social Support Index for use in chronically ill elderly
individuals. Psychosomatics,34(1), 61–69.
Koropeckyj-Cox, T. (1998). Loneliness and depression in middle
and old age: Are the childless more vulnerable? Journal of
Gerontology B Psychological Science and Social Science,53(6),
S303–S312.
Lee, C., Dobson, A. J., Brown, W. J., Bryson, L., Byles, J.,
Warner-Smith, P., & Young, A. F. (2005). Cohort Profile:
The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health.
International Journal of Epidemiology,34, 1093–1098.
McCallum, J. (1995). The SF-36 in an Australian sample:
Validating a new generic health status measure. Australian
Journal of Public Health,19, 160–166.
National Center for Health Statistics. (2000). Nonmarital child-
bearing in the United States, 1940–99. NVSR,48(16),
2001–2011.
National Health and Medical Research Council. (2002).
Australian alcohol guidelines: Health risks and benefits.
Canberra, Australia: National Health and Medical Research
Council.
Pollock, S., & Duffy, M. (1990). The Health-Related Hardiness
Scale: Development and psychometric analysis. Nursing
Research,39, 218–222.
Roos, P. A. (1983). Marriage and women’s occupational
attainment in cross-cultural perspective. American Socio-
logical Review,48(6), 852–864.
Scheier, M., Carver, C., & Bridges, M. (1994). Distinguishing
optimism from neuroticism (and trait anxiety, self-mastery,
and self-esteem): A reevaluation of the life orientation test.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,67, 1063–1078.
Spurlock, J. (1990). Single women. In J. R. Spurlock, & C. B.
Robinowitz (Eds.), Women in context: Development and
stresses (pp. 23–33). NY: Plenum Press.
Waldron, I., Hughes, M. E., & Brooks, T. L. (1996). Marriage
protection and marriage selection: Prospective evidence for
reciprocal effects of marital status and health. Social Science
& Medicine,43, 113–123.
Wells, N., & Freer, C. (1988). Introduction. In N. Wells, & C.
Freer (Eds.), The ageing population: Burden or challenge? (pp.
xiii–xviii). Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan.
Wenger, G. C. (2001). Ageing without children: Rural Wales.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology,16(1), 79–109.
Wister, A. V., & Dykstra, P. A. (2000). Formal assistance
among Dutch older adults: An examination of the gendered
ARTICLE IN PRESS
J. Cwikel et al. / Social Science & Medicine 62 (2006) 1991–20012000
nature of marital history. Canadian Journal on Aging,19(4),
508–535.
Wolf, D. A., Laditka, S. B., & Laditka, J. N. (2002). Patterns of
active life among older women: Differences within and
between groups. Journal of Women and Aging,14(1–2), 9–26.
Wu, Z., & Pollard, M. (1998). Social support among unmarried
childless elderly persons. Journal of Gerontology B,53,
S324–S335.
Young, A. F., Russell, A., & Powers, J. R. (2004). The sense of
belonging to a neighbourhood: Can it be measured and is it
related to health and well-being in older women? Social
Science & Medicine,59, 2627–2637.
Zhang, Z., & Hayward, M. (2001). Childlessness and the
psychological well-being of older persons. Journal of Ger-
ontology B,56, S311–S320.
ARTICLE IN PRESS
J. Cwikel et al. / Social Science & Medicine 62 (2006) 1991–2001 2001
... Similar research outside of the UK shows that women with higher income, good health, being ever married, and having children is associated with more positive outcomes in later life (Miettinen et al. 2015;Simpson 2009;Tohme et al. 2011). Other comparative studies have looked at the health and social care circumstances of women ageing solo, for instance, using data from a large-scale survey and comparing this group with women who were never married but had children and currently married/previously married women with/without children (Cwikel et al. 2006). Data from Cwikel's study showed a strong difference in levels of education where almost 40% of never-married women have postsecondary qualifications, compared with 13-19% in other groups. ...
... Similar to findings from Arber ( 2004), never-married women were also more active as members of social groups and made higher use of formal services than do currently married women. Cwikel et al. ( 2006) found no evidence to suggest that older and never-married childless women were in poorer physical or emotional health. While they were less likely to be providing care to family members, they were considerably more likely to be volunteers and their use of formal services was presumed to be related to not having their needs met by family. ...
... Nevertheless, the relationship may also be negative. Studies based in HICs suggest that older adults with children have accumulated less wealth on average and therefore they are less able to afford high-quality health care and health insurance, which are important to their health outcomes (Cwikel et al., 2006). Studies in LMICs vary in their conclusions but it is not uncommon to witness that adult children provide health-related services (e.g., informal care and assistance with health care utilization), which should improve health status of older adults (Caldwell, 1978;Peiro, 2006;Witvorapong, 2015). 1 3 ...
Article
Full-text available
Mechanisms underlying the relationship between parenthood and happiness are not well understood in all contexts; most existing studies focus on the working-age population in high-income settings. This study investigates different pathways through which parenthood influences happiness, using a large sample of older adults (N = 85,477) in a developing country in Asia, Thailand, drawn from three waves of a nationally representative survey. It hypothesizes that happiness in old age is a function not only of parenthood but also of one’s financial status, health status, and social participation, and parenthood is linked with each of the latter three components. The study suggests that parenthood is associated directly with an increase of 1.48% in the level of self-assessed, older-age happiness and indirectly with an increase of 0.66% through its associations with the other three domains of happiness. The mediation effects are strongest through the financial pathway, followed by the health and the social participation pathways respectively. The results are consistent with previous studies in countries where non-family institutions that are intended to provide social security are relatively weak. In order to promote older-age well-being, this study recommends policies encouraging post-retirement financial independence, health-promotion programs, and the provision of community-based activities targeted at older people.
... Instead, these 'non-mothers' are characterised as longing freedom and liberation (Peterson, 2015). Research tells that women who declare themselves as voluntarily childless face disbelief, disregard, and even disgrace from others for their desires to be without children, all of which may have detrimental health and social outcomes to the ageing childless woman (Cwikel, Gramotnev, & Lee, 2006;Gillespie, 2000;Silverio & Soulsby, 2020). This is because women who choose voluntary childlessness are seen to go against the traditional construction of feminine identity which has long been synonymous with motherhood and mothering (Gillespie, 1999;Silverio, 2019). ...
Chapter
Motherhood narratives pervade all cultures and are almost universally di-vided into the ‘good and perfect’ or the ‘bad and ugly’ mother discourses. A mother’s love is commonly thought of as an emotional investment between those who mother, and those who are mothered, and social expectations rein-force motherhood as being underpinned by an innate psychological bond. Historically comprising of nourishment, protection, and nurturing, in moder-nity a mother’s love has evolved to encompass added meanings in view of the competing demands of personal, professional, and socio-political obliga-tions. Consequently, with each new shape a mother’s love assumes, its mean-ing becomes conceptually stretched and more fragile. Negotiating these de-mands, together with the intense societal scrutiny placed on modern mothers, renders the meaning of a mother’s love ambiguous, and the traditional senses of motherhood increasingly difficult to achieve. Failure to bestow ‘perfect’ motherhood can provoke a range of disordered constructions of love, and important consequences of the ‘good mother’ discourse include increased maternal anxiety. This can manifest as maternal ambivalence and mother-infant attachment issues which, in turn, may contribute to profound, lifelong implications for maternal and child mental health. In severe cases of strained mother-child bonds, a varied degree of presentations may occur, including maternal abandonment, or in the most troubling instances of rupture between mother and infant: Infanticide. Reflecting on such problematic issues, we suggest ways to navigate distress to avoid these detrimental outcomes and aim to hold society accountable, so mothers are not solely responsible for their sustained psychological health and are supported to provide their infants with the love they require. attachment issues which, in turn, may contribute to profound, lifelong implications for maternal and child mental health. In severe cases of strained mother-child bonds, a varied degree of presentations may occur, including maternal abandonment, or in the most troubling instances of rupture between mother and infant: Infanticide. Reflecting on such problematic issues, we suggest ways to navigate distress to avoid these detrimental outcomes and aim to hold society accountable, so mothers are not solely responsible for their sustained psychological health and are supported to provide their infants with the love they require.
... Bununla paralel olarak, bilinçli olarak çocuk sahibi olmamaya karar veren kadınların oranı, yüksek prestijli ve kariyer odaklı mesleklerde ve yönetici pozisyonlarında daha yüksektir (Bachu, 1999;Bram, 1984;Crispell, 1993;Cwikel, Gramotnev ve Lee, 2006;Park, 2002). ...
... Finally, we report a novel finding that the effect of impaired structural and functional relationships during the lockdown was associated more strongly with depression in people who were previously more socially active. Several studies have suggested that unmarried people who live alone have wider and more active social networks and these have a greater impact on wellbeing for single people than for those in relationships (Cwikel, Gramotnev, & Lee, 2006;Ermer & Proulx, 2019;Stokes & Moorman, 2018). In our sample, those with less daily face-to-face contact were likely to be living alone and therefore unable to mix socially with the wide range of people with whom they would normally do so, and this may have been detrimental to mental health. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic led to measures that reduced social contact and support. We explored whether UK residents with more frequent or supportive social contact had fewer depressive symptoms during March−August 2020, and potential factors moderating the relationship. Methods A convenience sample of UK dwelling participants aged ⩾18 in the internet-based longitudinal COVID-19 Social Study completed up to 22 weekly questionnaires about face-to-face and phone/video social contact frequency, perceived social support, and depressive symptoms using the PHQ-9. Mixed linear models examined associations between social contact and support, and depressive symptoms. We examined for interaction by empathic concern, perspective taking and pre-COVID social contact frequency. Results In 71 117 people with mean age 49 years (standard deviation 15), those with high perceived social support scored 1.836 (1.801–1.871) points lower on PHQ-9 than those with low support. Daily face-to-face or phone/video contact was associated with lower depressive symptoms (0.258 (95% confidence interval 0.225–0.290) and 0.117 (0.080–0.154), respectively) compared to no contact. The negative association between social relationships and depressive symptoms was stronger for those with high empathic concern, perspective taking and usual sociability. Conclusions We found during lockdown that those with higher quality or more face-to-face or phone/video contact had fewer depressive symptoms. Contact quality was more strongly associated than quantity. People who were usually more sociable or had higher empathy had more depressive symptoms during enforced reduced contact. The results have implications for COVID-19 and potential future pandemic management, and for understanding the relationship between social factors and mental health.
... There is a social construct of sexual intimacy as heteronormative [21], with penetrative sex privileged [41], which can be challenging for non-heterosexual women and those without a male partner. It is important to note that analysis of data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health found that women in their seventies who remain single and childfree do not constitute a 'problem' group of lonely adults but tend to have higher education and to be more financially secure than other women [42]. Nevertheless, our participants (whether partnered or not) experienced the adverse effects of the social construct of ageing as debility, decline, and a burden on the young, as found elsewhere [1][2][3][4]10]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Optimal mental health underpins full social participation. As people age, they confront personal and cultural challenges, the effects of which on mental health are not fully understood. The aim of this research was to learn from women of the Baby Boomer generation (born 1946–1964) what contributes to and hinders their mental health and wellbeing. Eighteen women participated in qualitative interviews (in English); data were analysed thematically. Participants were located across Australia in rural and urban areas; not all were born in Australia. They were diverse in education, employment status, and experiences of life and ageing. The women nominated as the main contributors to poor mental health in older women Illness and disability , Financial insecurity , Maltreatment , and Loss and grief . Contributors to good mental health were identified as Social interdependence , Feeling valued , Physical activity , Good nutrition , and Having faith or belief . Women’s accounts supplied other influences on mental health, both associated with the person ( Personality and Intimate relationships and sex ) and with society ( Constructs of ageing , Gender , and Culture ). Women also specified what they needed from others in order to improve their mental health as they aged: Public education about ageing , Purposeful roles for older women in society , Adequate services and resources , and Sensitive health care . In sum, older women wanted to be treated with respect and for their lives to have meaning. It is evident from these results that circumstances throughout life can have profound influences on women’s mental health in older age. Anti-discriminatory policies, informed and inclusive health care, and social structures that support and enhance the lives of girls and women at all ages will therefore benefit older women and increase the potential for their continuing contribution to society. These conclusions have implications for policy and practice in well-resourced countries.
... First, although in the cohorts born at the beginning of the twentieth century childlessness was related to economic disadvantage, in younger cohorts women who did not form a family of their own tend to be a privileged group. They stand out with higher education, better financial situation, and higher social activity (e. g. doing more volunteer work) than otherwise comparable wives and mothers (Cwikel et al. 2006;Dykstra 2009;Dykstra and Hagestad 2016). A similar pattern does not show up among men. ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper analyses trajectories of life satisfaction among elderly people in various family situations and tests whether the disadvantage related to being single or childless increases (as predicted by cumulative (dis)advantage hypothesis) or reduces (consistently with age-as-leveler hypothesis) when people get older. The results show that the disadvantage of never married mothers grows with age, whereas the disadvantage of divorced people reduces with age. The study suggests that, in general, the increasing probability of ageing without close kin does not put at risk life satisfaction of elderly people.
... Finally, we report a novel finding that the effect of impaired structural and functional relationships during the lockdown was associated more strongly with depression in people who were previously more socially active. Several studies have suggested that unmarried people who live alone have wider and more active social networks and these have a greater impact on wellbeing for single people than for those in relationships [34][35][36]. In our sample, those with less daily face-to-face contact were likely to be living alone and therefore unable to mix socially with the wide range of people with whom they would normally do so, and this may have been detrimental to mental health. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background The COVID-19 pandemic led to social and physical distancing measures that reduced social contact and support. We explored whether people with more frequent and supportive social contact had fewer depressive symptoms during the UK Spring 2020 ‘lockdown’, whether this applied to face-to-face and remote electronic contact, and whether people with higher empathy levels, or more frequent pre-COVID social contact with others were more protected. Methods UK dwelling participants aged ≥18 in the internet-based longitudinal COVID-19 Social Study completed up to 22 weekly questionnaires about frequency of face-to-face and phone/video social contact, perceived social support, and depressive symptoms assessed with the patient health questionnaire (PHQ-9). Mixed linear models examined associations between social contact and support, and depressive symptoms. We examined for interaction by empathic concern and perspective taking and pre-COVID social contact frequency. Results In 71,117 people with mean age 49 years (standard deviation 15) we found that daily face-to-face or phone/video contact was associated with lower PHQ-9 scores (mean difference 0.258 (95% confidence interval 0.225, 0.290) and 0.117 (0.080, 0.154) respectively) compared to having no contact. Those with high social support scored 1.836 (1.801, 1.871) PHQ-9 points lower than those with low support. The odds ratio for depression for those with daily face-to-face social contact compared to no face-to-face contact was 0.712 (0.678, 0.747). Daily compared to no phone/video contact was associated with odds ratio for depression 0.825 (0.779, 0.873). And reporting high, compared to low, social support was associated with 0.145 (95%CI 0.138, 0.152) odds ratio for depression. The negative association between social relationships and depressive symptoms was stronger for those with high empathic concern, perspective taking and usual sociability. Conclusions Those who had more face-to-face contact during lockdown had fewer depressive symptoms. Phone or video communication were beneficial but less so. People who were usually more sociable or had higher empathy were more likely to have depressive symptoms during enforced reduced social contact. Results have implications both for our management of COVID-19 and potential future pandemics, and for our understanding of the relationship between social factors and mental health.
Article
Having children is a potential resource for care and support in later life. However, whether and, if so, under what conditions, childless older individuals risk insufficient support remains unclear. Using the Danish Longitudinal Study of Ageing (2017), restricted to respondents aged 67 years to 97 years ( n = 5,006), our study analyzes the link between availability of tangible support and parental status in a Nordic welfare state. Our results confirm a negative link between childlessness and support mainly among unpartnered individuals. This combined disadvantage is stronger among men than among women, and the support gap intensifies with increased health needs. Taken together, although childlessness in itself is no major disadvantage for support in late life, childless men living alone risk insufficient support, particularly when in poor health. Our findings have important policy implications for future cohorts of older individuals, who will have less access to support from either a spouse or children.
Article
Full-text available
Introduction: The increasing marriage age in societies can have many consequences, one of which is the emerging phenomenon of singlehood in older age. Meanwhile, most of the available studies on the never married older adults; have only focused on a limited area of their life and many of the results are not consistent. Aim: To classify the results of various studies on the characteristics of never married older adults and to identify the gaps in the literature with a holistic approach. Materials and Methods: An integrative review method was utilised for gathering and analysing data from February 2019 to August 2019. A total of 1007 articles were extracted by searching PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, ProQuest and other available records. Based on inclusion and exclusion criteria, ultimately 40 related articles (published between 1975 and 2019), were selected and analysed. The extracted findings were coded and classified into the sub and main categories. Results: In the analysis step, 33 of the extracted articles had a quantitative approach and only seven of them had used qualitative or mixed methods. The relevant results in the articles were coded and clustered in 11 subcategories and three main categories of “as well as others”, “singleness as a premium” and “downsides”. These clusters illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of being single in later life as reported in the reviewed studies. Conclusion: The study discusses consistent as well as contradictory results. Most studies on the never married older adult are quantitative and have been conducted in developed countries. The controversial and unknown perspectives should be explored in further researches, using different approaches.
Article
Full-text available
Drawing from life course theory, this article examines gender differences in formal assistance among functionally dependent Dutch older persons within five distinct marital history groups – first-married, never-married, divorced (not remarried), widowed (not remarried) and the remarried. Hierarchical logistic regression analyses are performed for each of the marital history groups to test hypotheses regarding the interrelationships among gender and three sets of variables: 1) measures of age and functional health; 2) measures of socio-economic status; and 3) measures of the social network. The results indicate gendered patterns of formal help use among the first-married, never-married and widowed. Consistent with other studies, older first-married women are approximately three times more likely to receive formal help than are men, a difference that remains robust after statistically controlling for other factors, including frailty of spouse. However, we also find that never-married women are about one-third as likely to use formal help than are never-married men, which may be reflective of different preferences regarding formal service use. Among the widowed, we find that men with poorer functional health are more likely to receive formal help than are their female counterparts, suggesting contrasting patterns of help-seeking behaviour and social vulnerability. Additional differences are observed among the marital history groups in terms of the other independent variables, which are also interpreted from a life course perspective.
Chapter
A number of definitions have been ascribed to singleness: never married, divorced (shortly or long after marriage), or widowed. Traditionally, single women have been identified as never married and usually childless (Adams, 1976). The latter criterion has varied in different subcultures and socioeconomic groups in the United States. Never-married, middle-class, heterosexual, usually childless women who are over 30 years of age will be the subject of this chapter. These women fall into three categories: those who deliberately delay marriage until completion of professional training, those who are voluntarily single (singleness declared as a preferred life-style), and those who are involuntarily single (marriage preferred, but thwarted by various factors). Data were obtained from open-ended interviews* and other contacts (in social and work-related settings) with single women. All of these women had received formal education beyond high school—college or business. Most were college graduates, and a sizable number had graduated from a professional school.
Article
Employing data from 12 industrial societies, the present paper investigates differences in the labor force behavior, occupational distribution, and attainment patterns of ever and never married women. The analysis tests one explanation for occupational sex segregation-dual career theory, which attributes women's concentration in low-paying employment to gender differences in marital and childrearing responsibilities. The results for the twelve countries offer some support for the assertion that never married women are more similar to men than ever married women, but not in all respects related to their occupational behavior. Although marital responsibilities affect the extent to which women work and the kinds of jobs in which they are employed, these differences for the most part do not translate into differences in occupational prestige or wage rate. Thus, women's economic disadvantage, relative to men, cannot be attributed solely, or even in large measure, to gender differences in marital responsibilities. Never married women, who have no immediate marital responsibilities, do not fare much better than married women in their occupational attainment.
Article
The Perceived Stress Questionnaire for Young Women (PSQYW) was assessed for internal reliability and validity, for longitudinal changes, and for relationships with health and health behaviours. Participants in the Young cohort of the Women's Health Australia project completed the questionnaire as part of a wide-ranging survey on health and well-being in both 1996 and 2000. The 9683 women were aged between 18 and 23 years at Survey 1, and 22 and 27 years at Survey 2. The PSQYW was shown to have reproducible internal reliability and validity. Overall stress levels increased across the 4 years. For individual items the largest increase in stress was in the life domain of relationship with partner/spouse, whilst the largest decrease was in the life domain of study. Higher levels of stress were associated with current smoking, and weekly alcohol bingeing. Of the health outcomes, mental health was found to have the strongest relationship with stress, with a measure of symptoms contributing some unique explanation, and physical health having only a minimal relationship. As this cohort is in the midst of the transition to adulthood future research should include the contextual factor of life course position, with another key area for future research being the causal relationship between stress and health over time.
Article
Abstract The Perceived Stress Questionnaire for Young Women (PSQYW) was developed for the Women’s Health Australia (WHA) project as a measure of the level and perceived sources of stress. A total of 14,779 women aged 18–23 completed the baseline survey. The PSQYW scale was shown to be internally reliable, unifactorial and to have content validity. Convergent construct validity was demonstrated most strongly with measures of mental health, life events and symptoms, and more weakly with the health behaviours of smoking and alcohol bingeing. There was no relationship with physical activity. Multiple regression showed that illness, physical health, mental health and life events explained 44% of the variance, with mental health explaining the most. Construct validity for the life domains indicated Ž ve factors relating to family of origin, relationships with others, own health, work/money and study. The PSQYW was proposed to be an adequate measure of overall perceived stress and to be able to indicate broad life domain perceived stress sources for young women. Further research with broader demographic samples is proposed to enable the PSQYW to be used as a succinct method of assessing perceived stress levels and sources by GPs, and other health practitioners.
Article
There is concern about but little information on how living alone affects the health and survival of older adults. We examined the association between living arrangements (living alone, with a spouse, or with someone other than a spouse) and survival among 7651 adults, aged 45 to 74 years in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I) (1971-1975) and traced at the NHANES I Follow-up Study (1982-1984), to see whether certain sociodemographic factors (race, education, income, and employment), health behaviors (alcohol, smoking, physical activity, and obesity), or chronic medical conditions were influential in the association. We found a stronger association of living arrangements with survival for men than for women, and for middle-aged men than for older men. For men, those living alone and those living with someone other than a spouse were equally disadvantaged in terms of survival. Income, race, employment, and physical activity influenced the association of living arrangements and survival, but their impact varied by age, gender, and living arrangement. Living arrangements had a weak impact on survival among men, but had no effect among women.
Article
This study of 150 individuals, 85 years and older, focused on their families and social networks. Using both structured and open-ended questions, we explored the extent to which the family functions as a source of support for the oldest old. The findings indicate that those with children are significantly more active with all relatives, most likely because children link them to grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their relatives by marriage. For the 30 percent who are childless and unmarried, other relatives are not usually active providers of support, a finding which suggests that the principle of substitution does not operate effectively for this age group. Case studies illustrate the variations in family functioning in the support of their oldest members