Author

Kay T. Rawson

Date of Award:

1994

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Department name when degree awarded

Family Life

Advisor/Chair:

Glen O. Jenson

Abstract

Women in modern America are living longer than ever before and society 's expectations are changing. In 1900, it was expected that most women would die in their forties or early fifties. However, with today's life expectancy of approximately 80 years. midlife is a viable component of a woman's total life course. Since midlife is an important part of the lives of today's women, this study examines the elements of well-being in midlife women over three transitional periods surrounding the half century birthday. A random sample of 1,041 midlife women, ages 34-66, living along the Wasatch Front in Utah, responded to the survey entitled Women's Experience in Family Work Religion and Community.

It was hypothesized that there would be differences in levels of life satisfaction, esteem , depression, and marital satisfaction among three groups: pre-midlife transition women (34-44 years old); midlife transition women (45-55 years old); and post-midlife transition women (56-66 years old). The effects of marital status, empty-nest, children, education, employment, denomination, and religiosity were analyzed with measures of well-being.

The premise that levels of well-being differ according to the transitional stage in midlife remains unsubstantiated. However, regression equations found a few significant variables: education and husband's income explained variance in life satisfaction, esteem, depression, and marital satisfaction for the pre-midlife and the midlife groups; children, marital status, religiosity, and denomination were significant for the post-midlife group on life satisfaction and esteem measures; no variables were significant with the post-midlife group for marital satisfaction; and wife's income explained a significant amount of variance only for the midlife cohort and only with the esteem scale.

Well-being and quality of life were not significantly different for women 34 to 66 years of age. Midlife appeared to be a time of nonturbulence; findings did not support a generalized empty-nest syndrome, revealing instead that women's wellbeing remained stable in all three transition periods. Correlates of well-being were discussed and suggestions for future research, programs, and policies were proposed.

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