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Personality Growth after Relationship Losses: Changes of Perceived Control in the Years around Separation, Divorce, and the Death of a Partner

SOEPpapers 1172, 27 S.

Eva Asselmann, Jule Specht


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Background: Previous research suggests that romantic relationships play a crucial role for perceived control. However, we know surprisingly little about changes in perceived control before and after the end of romantic relationships. Methods: Based on data from the Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP), a nationally representative household panel study from Germany, we examined changes of perceived control in the years around separation from a partner (N = 1,235), divorce (N = 423), and the death of a partner (N = 437). Results: Multilevel analyses revealed that external control beliefs were higher in but not beyond the first year after separation from a partner. Internal and total control beliefs increased gradually in the years after separation. Moreover, internal control beliefs were higher in and especially beyond the first year after the death of a partner compared to the years before. No evidence was found that perceived control already changed in the years before relationship losses or in the years around a divorce. Conclusion: Taken together, these findings point toward stress-related growth of perceived control after some relationship losses-especially separation and the death of a partner.