Concept and Structure of Widowhood as a Social Phenomenon

Concept and Structure of Widowhood as a Social Phenomenon

Еlutina М.E.

Dr. Sci. (Sociol.), Prof., Head of the Chair of Social Work Sociology, Saratov National Research State University named after N.G. Chernyshevsky, Saratov, Russia.

Ivakhnova I.D.

Postgraduate Student of the Sociological Faculty, Chernyshevsky Saratov National Research State University, Saratov, Russia.

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For citation:

Еlutina М.E., Ivakhnova I.D. Concept and Structure of Widowhood as a Social Phenomenon. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2021. No 10. P. 94-105


The article analyzes widowhood as a social phenomenon. The concept of widowhood is shown to be a differentiated and many-sided matter. The main semantic complexes of widowhood are treated as a family anomaly, as a ritual, as a formal sign marking sociocultural boundaries, and as a subjective phenomenon characterized by a certain modality. Sociocultural analysis of widowhood helps to present it not only as a static construct, but as a set of causally interrelated states. The paper explains socio-cultural conditionality of experience locus associated with widowhood. The structural framework of widowhood is identified as follows: the nature of marital relations, situation of loss, i.e. interruption of life projects, as well as formation of individual life strategies (restoration of contacts and semantic connections). Analysis of in-depth interviews with widowed people allowed to identify substantive difficulties, vulnerabilities in situations of spouse’s loss: social resonance, complex system of contacts, danger of breaking the ability to rationally comprehend reality, and existential dimension of the situation. The results of the study showed that the choice of further life strategies is largely determined by the situational context and personal characteristics of the widowed person. The possible life positions are variable: simulating, sonoristic, regulating, position of ‘absent presence’, and realistic.

widowhood; meanings of widowhood; structure of widowhood; marital relations; variability of life positions
Content No 10, 2021