Transition to the Empty Nest: a Phenomenological Study

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Transition to the Empty Nest: A Phenomenological Study

Hui-Ling Lai


This qualitative research was a pilot study, which was designed with the aim of exploring the experience of empty nest from two women's perspective. The transcripts were analyzed followed the procedures and techniques of ground theory. The theoretical perspective of the study was based on Parse Theory. Results addressed that women undergoing the empty nest experience encountered complicated emotions, in which the following themes were elicited: feeling sad, feeling relived, wondering about oneself, loving children, dealing with missing someone, dealing with transition, coping with anxieties and denial, seeking supports, and feeling positive. In general, the empty nest gave the subjects mixed feelings. The study suggests that developmental counseling for middle-aged women cannot exist in standard programs with same aims for all participants, but should begin with individuals and situational determinants of each woman. (Tzu Chi Nursing Journal 2002; 1(3):88-94) Key words: phenomenology, empty nest phase, ground theory, Parse's theory.


Nowadays, research on women's mid-life psychological well-being has been drawn from two theoretical models: biomedicine and behavioral science. The biomedical model emphasizes hormonal changes at mid-life, and the related knowledge is well-known and widely applied. However, the behavioral science model focuses on environmental stressors; particularly, the departure of children from the home is somewhat known, especially from women's per-

spective of the experiences (Wilbur & Dan, 1989). Empty nest syndrome has been described as a salient factor that affects mid-life women's wellness because it was assumed that might cause depression from loss (Kelleher, 1992); however, some other research articles address that the empty nest period can be a happy and productive time for women (Mitchell & Helson, 1990) because they are no longer...