The Long-term effects of spousal caregiving on survivors’ well-being in widowhood

Document Type



Objective. Previous research suggests that bereavement and adjustment to widowhood are long term and should be studied as processes rather than as static outcomes. We analyze how spousal care giving affects survivors' depressive symptoms 18 and 48 months into widowhood.

Method. We use three waves of data from the Changing Lives of Older Couples (CLOC) Survey and estimate OLS regression equations to determine the long-term effects of spousal care giving on widow(er)s' well-being.

Results. At 18 months, more burdensome spousal care giving predicted higher levels of depressive symptoms, while greater caregiver stress predicted lower levels. Specific characteristics of the caregiving situation were no longer significant predictors of well-being 48 months into widowhood, although care giving itself had an ameliorative effect on level of symptoms.

Conclusions. The results highlight the dynamic nature of bereavement and suggest that the effects of spousal care and characteristics of the care situation on depressive symptoms during widowhood are not linear over time. We discuss the implications of our findings for the conceptualization of the relationship between care giving and bereavement.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Psychology | Social Psychology and Interaction


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Publisher Citation

Prokos, A. H. and Keene, J. R. (2005), The Long-Term Effects of Spousal Care Giving on Survivors' Well-Being in Widowhood. Social Science Quarterly, 86: 664–682. doi: 10.1111/j.0038-4941.2005.00323.x