A Case Study on Adjustment to Divorce among Older Hispanic Adults in Miami-Dade, Florida

By Oramas, Josefina E. | Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

A Case Study on Adjustment to Divorce among Older Hispanic Adults in Miami-Dade, Florida


Oramas, Josefina E., Journal of Multidisciplinary Research


Josefina E. Ora mas

Introduction

Research on divorce has been a major topic of controversy and scholarly interest for decades (Amato, 2010; Zhang & Van Hook, 2009). One of the reasons for this interest is the serious consequences of divorce and the elevated number of individuals it affects nationwide. Experts claim that a quarter of all first marriages end in disruption by their eighth year (Pinsof, 2002), and half or more of all marriages end sometime after that (Rohde-Brown & Rudestam, 2011).

In 1998, about 85% of all relationships ended in divorce after 20 years of marriage, just in the state of Florida (Pinsof, 2002). Now, more than 23% of the total population is divorced in the city of Miami alone (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). Experts predict that up to 65% of all marriages in the nation will end in divorce (Christenson, Zabriskie, Eggett, & Freeman, 2006; RohdeBrown & Rudestam, 2011). Many of these divorces will take place within the Hispanic population as Hispanics continue to increase in numbers and stressors for this population group affect marital stability (Amato, 2010; Zhang & Van Hook, 2009).

Wu and Schimmele (2007) affirmed that older adults are divorcing more than ever before even though the likelihood of being married is supposed to increase with age. In 2001, approximately 300,000 people in the United States age 55 or older experienced divorce or separation. In 2004, 64% of those 65 and older ended their marriages after ten or more years, while 32% did the same after 20 or more years.

Regardless of the seriousness of the problem and the large body of literature on the subject of divorce (Amato, 2010; Krumrei, Mahoney, & Pargament, 2009; Meitzer, 2011), the literature has failed to represent Hispanics and older adults in research and has published general research methodologies (e.g., longitudinal studies) that cannot successfully and accurately describe the reality of these groups' experiences with divorce (Silverstein & Giarrusso, 2010). The present study bridged this gap by increasing knowledge concerning the experience of Hispanics who experience divorce in late-life and by using case study as the research method that enabled participants to tell their stories in their own words.

Literature Review

Most literary publications focus on the negative aspects of divorce (Hughes & Waite, 2009; Meitzer, 2011); however, many experts affirm that adjustment post-divorce is possible (Amato, 2010; Qualls, 2008). More than adjustment, there is potential for growth and development (Leighman, 2009; Meitzer, 2011). There is also a chance for self-fulfillment and happiness after divorce (East, Jackson, Obrien, & Peters, 2010). Experts disagree about the specific contributors to adjustment. Some explain that certain realities, such as initiating the divorce, foster adjustment (Wang & Amato, 2000) while others maintain that adjustment is not related to who initiates the divorce (Sweeper & Halford, 2006). Experts agree that more than half of the married Hispanic population eventually divorces (Oropesa & Landale, 2004; Pinsof, 2002) and that this number will continue to increase as older adults end their marriages to fulfill new life goals (Wu & Schimmele, 2007).

Wu and Schimmele (2007) explained that, until recently, first marriages that ended in divorce lasted an average of about eight years with an average age of 39 for males and 37 for females. Despite the number of years married, these ages are now increasing and people are divorcing at older ages. Up to 7% of divorced individuals are between 55 and 59 and 4% of them are over 60. In 2001, approximately 300,000 Americans age 55 and older were divorced or separated and the numbers will increase as older adults grow apart from their spouses, decrease their levels of commitment, and ultimately want a personal change (Amato, 2010; Wu & Schimmele, 2007). At the turn of the century, about 85% of all relationships ended in divorce after 20 years of marriage in the state of Florida (Pinsof, 2002). …

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