SAGE Journal Articles

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Journal Article 10.1: Karraker, A., & Latham, K. (2015). In Sickness and in Health? Physical Illness as a Risk Factor for Marital Dissolution in Later Life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 56(3): 420–435.

Abstract: The health consequences of marital dissolution are well known, but little work has examined the impact of health on the risk of marital dissolution. We use a sample of 2,701 marriages from the Health and Retirement Study to examine the role of serious physical illness onset in subsequent marital dissolution via either divorce or widowhood. We use a series of discrete time event history models with competing risks to estimate the impact of husband’s and wife’s physical illness onset on risk of divorce and widowhood. We find that only measures of wife’s illness onset are associated with elevated risk of divorce, while measures of either spouse’s illness onset is associated with elevated risk of widowhood. Further, in the case of heart problems, we find that this gender difference is statistically significant. These findings suggest health as a determinant of marital dissolution in later life via both biological and gendered social pathways.

Learning Objective: 10.4 Summarize the major issues in relationships in very late adulthood about loss, grief, and bereavement


Journal Article 10.2: Lessard, S., Leclerc, B.-S., & Mongeau, S. (2016). Family Caregivers’ Social Representations of Death in a Palliative Care Context. SAGE Open. 1-9.

Abstract: The objective of this study was to consider the social representations of death of family caregivers in a palliative care context. The authors focused on the analysis of 23 interviews with family caregivers who cared for a terminally ill person at home and/or in a specialized palliative care unit, in Québec, Canada. The finding showed that family caregivers had different images that specifically represented death: (a) losses as different kinds of “deaths,” (b) palliative care as a place to negotiate with death, and (c) last times as confirmation of the end. These images highlight the meaning attributed to the body and the position of the dying person in our Western society. Representations of palliative care reveal a kind of paradox, a place of respect and of “gentle death,” and a place where death is almost too omnipresent. They also show the strong beliefs surrounding the use of painkillers at the end of life. Finally, these images refer to end-of-life personal rituals viewed as support for the passage into a new state of being. This study provides a better understanding of the common sense of death for family caregivers in a palliative care context and of the meanings of this emotional subject.

Learning Objective: 10.7 Summarize what social workers need to know about the dying process; 10.8 Summarize what social workers need to know about loss, grief, and bereavement.


Journal Article 10.3: Goulding, A. (2018). The Role of Cultural Engagement in Older People’s Lives. Cultural Sociology. 1-22.

Abstract: This study explores the degree to which cultural engagement contributes to older people’s lives using qualitative interview data with 40 participants aged 64–98 years. It makes an original contribution to the fields of cultural class analysis and policy-related literature on participation and ageing by unravelling how class – especially cultural capital acquired throughout the life course – shapes the meanings and contexts of cultural participation in later life. This article shows how ageing creates material, physical and relational barriers to cultural participation, particularly for older-old participants, and how these interact with inequalities of cultural capital and taste. Findings highlight how cultural participation both reflects and creates inequality of opportunity in older age, by revealing the influence of class, gender and ethnicity on the contexts and subsequent outcomes of engagement. The article examines the intellectual dimension of engagement in order to understand the experience of the aesthetic encounter specific to older populations. The patterns of participation and social contexts in which engagement occurs reinforce social hierarchies and define identities in older age.

Learning Objective: 10.2 Summarize  major themes in the historical and cultural contexts of people in very late adulthood, including centenarians; 10.4 Summarize the major issues in relationships in very late adulthood.