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Extramarital Relationships in the Context of Spousal Alzheimer’s Disease: A Mixed-Methods Exploration of Public Attitudes

Family Relationships and Familial Responses to Health Issues

ISBN: 978-1-78441-015-5, eISBN: 978-1-78441-014-8

Publication date: 13 October 2014

Abstract

Purpose

To conduct an exploratory mixed-methods study of attitudes toward extramarital relationships in the context of spousal Alzheimer’s disease.

Design

We present descriptive analyses of quantitative data from the National Social, Health, and Aging Project and of qualitative comments posted online by readers of newspaper articles that focus on extramarital relationships in the context of caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease.

Findings

Analyses of the quantitative data indicate the Alzheimer’s caregivers report more negative attitudes toward extramarital sex in the context of spousal Alzheimer’s disease. However, this difference is driven by non-spousal caregivers’ attitudes; spousal caregivers have substantially less negative attitudes. Analyses of public comments suggest that those who are most negative are focused on traditional religious and family values. Those who express less negative attitudes espouse a compassionate pragmatism that makes allowances for caregiver needs in the context of managing the difficulties of the spouse-caregiver role.

Research limitations

Quantitative data are limited by the small number of Alzheimer’s caregivers; qualitative analyses are based on a convenience sample of online comments.

Practical implications

Findings can inform future research, educational initiatives for professionals, the media, and people living with Alzheimer’s disease and their family members.

Social implications

The number of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and spousal caregivers will increase as the Baby Boomer generation ages. Norms regarding extramarital relationships in the context of caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease are evolving.

Originality

Little social scientific research examines attitudes toward extramarital relationships in the context of spousal Alzheimer’s disease.

Keywords

Citation

London, A.S. and Wilmoth, J.M. (2014), "Extramarital Relationships in the Context of Spousal Alzheimer’s Disease: A Mixed-Methods Exploration of Public Attitudes", Family Relationships and Familial Responses to Health Issues (Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research, Vol. 8A), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 103-134. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1530-35352014000008A003

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited