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DeLamater & HasdayPage 23

changes may result from developing greater understanding of self or partner, changes in the nature and content of communication, accidents or illnesses that alter one’s sexual responsiveness, or major stressors associated with family or career roles.  Again, we see the combined effects of biological, psychological and social influences on sexuality.

The dissolution of a long-term relationship is a major life stage transition, and persons who experience it, especially women, face complex problems of adjustment. These problems may include reduced income, lower (perceived) standard of living, the demands of single parenthood, and reduced availability of social support (Amato, 2001). These problems may increase the motivation to quickly reestablish a relationship, though at the same time they may make it difficult to do so.

Persons who lose their partner through divorce or death have the option of new sexual relationships.  In the United States, most divorced women, but fewer widows, develop an active sexual life; 28% of divorced women and 81% of the widowed report being sexually abstinent in the preceding year (Smith, 2003).  By gender, 46% of divorced and widowed men and 58% of divorced and widowed women reported engaging in sexual intercourse a few times or not at all in the preceding year (Laumann, et al., 1994).  There is a higher probability of being sexually active postmaritally for those who are under 35 and have no children at home (Stack & Gundlach, 1992). Men and women with low incomes report relatively higher rates of partner acquisition after dissolution of a cohabiting or marital relationship (Wade & DeLamater, 2002).

Sexuality and aging

Biology, a major influence in childhood and adolescence, again becomes a significant influence on sexuality at midlife (ages 50 to 60). In women, menopause is associated with a decline in the production of estrogen; this occurs, on the average, over a two-year period beginning between

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