Title

Occupational Identity in Three Older Women's Narratives on Widowhood

Presenter Information

Silke Dennhardt
Debbie Laliberts

Start Time

7-10-2006 3:00 PM

End Time

7-10-2006 4:05 PM

Abstract

Occupational identity is an emerging and exciting concept in occupational science as it shows great promise in extending and deepening our knowledge about humans as occupational beings. Much remains to be understood regarding how individuals develop, maintain, and re-construct their occupational identity during their life course. As widowhood is a major life transition experienced my many women in later life that both challenges identity construction and often leads to changes in one’s occupational repertoire, exploration of the experiences of widows offers interesting opportunities for occupational scientists to further our understanding of occupational identity. As well, since widowhood is a status and a process that is both individually and socially constructed in multidimensional ways, exploring the narratives of older widows allows for examination of both personal and contextual influences on occupational identity. Because narration is a process of creating meaning, as well as a means to build and shape one’s identity, the investigation of older women’s narratives of widowhood will allow for a deeper understanding of how these women construct their occupations in regard to their identity, and vice versa. This research paper presents a qualitative study in a narrative paradigm, based on in-depth interviews with Meta, Elizabeth, and Mary, 3 women aged 75 and older. The selected approach comprised multiple contacts and both open narrative exploration and focused interviewing. The women were asked retrospectively about their experiences of becoming and being a widow in later life and were invited to tell their story on this identity transition. Data analysis followed Wicks & Whiteford’s (2003) strategy for occupation-based identity construction in the narratives of these older women as well as on the ways in which the women’s occupational options and decisions are shaped by contextual factors. Drawing on occupational science, critical gerontological, and life-course perspectives, the relationship between occupation and identity in the transition to widowhood will be explored, and implications for future development of the concept of occupational identity and research will be discussed.

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Oct 7th, 3:00 PM Oct 7th, 4:05 PM

Occupational Identity in Three Older Women's Narratives on Widowhood

Occupational identity is an emerging and exciting concept in occupational science as it shows great promise in extending and deepening our knowledge about humans as occupational beings. Much remains to be understood regarding how individuals develop, maintain, and re-construct their occupational identity during their life course. As widowhood is a major life transition experienced my many women in later life that both challenges identity construction and often leads to changes in one’s occupational repertoire, exploration of the experiences of widows offers interesting opportunities for occupational scientists to further our understanding of occupational identity. As well, since widowhood is a status and a process that is both individually and socially constructed in multidimensional ways, exploring the narratives of older widows allows for examination of both personal and contextual influences on occupational identity. Because narration is a process of creating meaning, as well as a means to build and shape one’s identity, the investigation of older women’s narratives of widowhood will allow for a deeper understanding of how these women construct their occupations in regard to their identity, and vice versa. This research paper presents a qualitative study in a narrative paradigm, based on in-depth interviews with Meta, Elizabeth, and Mary, 3 women aged 75 and older. The selected approach comprised multiple contacts and both open narrative exploration and focused interviewing. The women were asked retrospectively about their experiences of becoming and being a widow in later life and were invited to tell their story on this identity transition. Data analysis followed Wicks & Whiteford’s (2003) strategy for occupation-based identity construction in the narratives of these older women as well as on the ways in which the women’s occupational options and decisions are shaped by contextual factors. Drawing on occupational science, critical gerontological, and life-course perspectives, the relationship between occupation and identity in the transition to widowhood will be explored, and implications for future development of the concept of occupational identity and research will be discussed.