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Research project Grey divorce – An unexplored path to uncoupling in later life

In what has been described as a “gray divorce revolution”, late life divorce is rapidly increasing in the Western world. Among Swedes 60+ divorce rates have almost doubled since the millennium. Still, grey divorce remains almost invisible both in family sociology and gerontology.

Existing research is mainly quantitative and from the US. There is no research about Sweden. The project will study the experience of getting divorced late in life and becoming a grey divorcee. Why do people divorce late in life? How do transitions such as the empty nest, retirement and onset of illness shape the grey divorce experience? What is the difference between his and her divorce? How does divorce affect support networks and relationships to adult children? What does grey divorce reveal about older people’s conceptions of family and intimate relationships, and how they think about ageing?

We will interview 40 men and women who have divorced/separated 60+, from first and higher order unions. The two applicants, from the Universities of Gävle (project leader) and Stockholm, will participate equally in all aspects of the project, carried out 2018-20. The study is guided by theories of the life course and the individualized family. Grey divorce constitutes a strategic site for studying the transformation of the ageing family in late modernity and fill important international knowledge gaps.