School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Bridgette M. Hester


empty nest, married couples, transition, dyadic analysis, post-parental




To improve our understanding of the lived experiences of married couples who have transitioned to the empty nest phase of the family life cycle, having had their last child leave home, dyadic perspectives of six married couples were captured. Exploring this understudied midlife transition was important to highlight the relationship experiences that characterized the transition to the empty nest phase of marriage that contribute to positive and negative relational outcomes. Within the context of a resilient and stable marriages, it was also important to understand strategic measures couples have used to buffer and strengthen the marital relationship. Participants included 12 individuals (six couples), 46 to 65 years of age, living in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The heterosexual couples had continuously committed marriages ranging in duration between 21 to 41 years, and were transitioned to the empty nest phase between one and 14 years after launching their last child from home. The data were collected using semi-structured dyadic interviews to elicit descriptions of the empty nest experiences of the couples. The interviews were audio-visually recorded and subsequently transcribed for data analysis. This qualitative descriptive phenomenological study produced a general structure of the lived experience that included five structures making up the shared aspects of the phenomenon and seven constituents adding to the richness and depth of the description. This study has beneficial implications for individuals impacted by the empty nest lifecycle phase, educators and researchers involved in family development, and practitioners working in marriage and family therapy.

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