UBC Theses and Dissertations
Individual and spousal neuroticism are differentially associated with daily affect quality and physical symptoms in old age Lay, Jennifer Christina
Objective: Marriage partners exert a special influence on each other’s health and wellbeing, potentially even more so in old age, when social networks shrink and spouses become ever more important resources for dealing with everyday problems. This study complements and extends past research by examining associations between older spouses’ levels of neuroticism, a key trait tied to wellbeing and health, and everyday fluctuations in affect quality, physical symptoms, and responses to everyday problems. Methods: Forty-nine wives and 49 husbands aged 60-83 years (M marriage duration = 42.5 years) first provided independent neuroticism self-report ratings. Spouses then completed up to 27 repeated daily life assessments (time-sampling), during which they simultaneously reported their affect quality, physical health symptoms, and everyday problems 3 times daily for 9 consecutive days on handheld computers. Results: Hierarchical linear modelling results replicate past work by showing negative associations between individual neuroticism and overall affect quality and physical symptoms. Interestingly, spousal neuroticism, in contrast, was positively associated with affect quality and physical symptoms, but only when problems were present. Specifically, having a spouse higher in neuroticism was associated with more favorable problem-affect quality associations and problem-physical symptom associations, even when controlling for marital satisfaction, age, gender, and level of conscientiousness. Conclusions: Findings are discussed in the context of the evolutionary psychology literature and may suggest that spousal neuroticism can serve adaptive functions by increasing vigilance and preparing older couples to deal with everyday problems.
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