Are There Age-Related Differences in Couples’ Support Exchanges?




Floyd, Corinne

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Social support is a necessary component of living a fulfilling life, and we often rely on our romantic partners as a primary source of support. However, a number of factors can hinder the provider’s ability to deliver support in a way that conveys caring and understanding to the recipient. Drawing from theories of aging, which suggest that older adults are more skilled than younger adults in using cognitive and behavioral strategies that promote positive interpersonal interactions, the current study aims to examine whether the emotional wisdom associated with aging may be linked to the quality of couples’ support exchanges. Married and newly dating couples (N = 282 couples) of varying ages engaged in two videotaped support discussions and completed post-discussion questionnaires. When examining partners’ observed support provision behaviors, no significant age effects emerged. Likewise, age was not a robust predictor of partners’ appraisals of their support interactions. However, relationship satisfaction was generally associated with more positive behaviors and appraisals across all ages. These findings suggest that older may not necessarily be wiser within romantic relationships. Rather, the quality of the relationship itself may be a more important context for understanding support behaviors and appraisals.


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