Together Forever

Kevin Lewis

May 23, 2020

Relationship quality and 5-year mortality risk
Jamila Bookwala & Trent Gaugler
Health Psychology, forthcoming

Method: Data were drawn from 2 waves, 5 years apart, of the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (N = 1,734). Positive aspects of relationship quality (frequency of opening up to the partner to talk about worries and relying on the partner) and negative aspects (frequency of the partner making too many demands and criticism by the partner) were assessed. Survival/mortality status was recorded at the time of Wave 2 data collection 5 years later (1,567 alive; 167 deceased). Covariates included sociodemographic variables, relationship type, health status, and the network size of close family relationships and friendships.

Results: Logistic regression analyses showed that negative relationship quality with one’s spouse or partner was associated with significantly higher odds for mortality after 5 years (odds ratio [OR] = 1.20, 95% CI [1.03, 1.38], p < .001), after including the statistical covariates. Also, age, gender, education, self-rated health, and medication use were significantly related to mortality. Propensity score matching replicated these findings. Follow-up analyses revealed that criticism from one’s spouse or partner, in particular, was linked to a higher mortality risk (OR = 1.44, 95% CI [1.10, 1.88]). Gender did not moderate the relationship-quality–mortality link.

Same-Sex Couples’ Shared Time in the United States
Katie Genadek, Sarah Flood & Joan Garcia
Roman Demography, April 2020, Pages 475–500


This study examines and compares shared time for same-sex and different-sex coresident couples using large, nationally representative data from the 2003–2016 American Time Use Survey (ATUS). We compare the total time that same-sex couples and different-sex couples spend together; for parents, the time they spend together with children; and for both parents and nonparents, the time they spend together with no one else present and the time they spend with others (excluding children). After we control for demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the couples, women in same-sex couples spend more time together, both alone and in total, than individuals in different-sex arrangements and men in same-sex couples, regardless of parenthood status. Women in same-sex relationships also spend a larger percentage of their total available time together than other couples, and the difference in time is not limited to any specific activity.

Induced Mate Abundance Increases Women’s Expectations for Engagement Ring Size and Cost
Ashley Locke, Jessica Desrochers & Steven Arnocky
Evolutionary Psychological Science, June 2020, Pages 188–194


Research on some non-human species suggests that an abundance of reproductively viable males relative to females can increase female choosiness and preferences for longer-term mating and resource investment by males. Yet little research has explored the potential influence of mate availability upon women’s preferences for signals of men’s commitment and resource provisioning. Using an experimental mate availability priming paradigm, the present study examined whether women (N = 205) primed with either mate scarcity or abundance would differ in their expectations for engagement ring size and cost. Results demonstrated that women who were primed with the belief that good-quality mates are abundant in the population reported expecting a statistically-significantly larger and more expensive engagement ring relative to women primed with mate scarcity. Results suggest that women flexibly attune their expectations for signals of men’s investment based, in part, upon their perception of the availability of viable mates.

The implications of changing hormonal contraceptive use after relationship formation
Juliana French & Andrea Meltzer
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming


Modern-day environments differ drastically from those in which humans evolved, which likely has important implications for human mating psychology. Particularly notable is the modern advancement of hormonal contraceptives (HCs), which alter the natural hormones of the many women who use them. According to the HC congruency hypothesis, HCs alter sex hormones and brain processes that are linked to numerous relationship preferences. In light of work suggesting such preferences play an important role in relationship evaluations, changing HC use during a long-term relationship (relative to use at relationship formation) should impact women's relationships. We used data from two independent longitudinal studies of 203 newlywed couples to address this possibility. Results demonstrated that wives reported lower sexual satisfaction (but not marital satisfaction) when their HC use was incongruent (versus congruent) with their use at relationship formation. These findings provide preliminary support for the HC congruency hypothesis, though we also broaden our theoretical framework to offer methodological recommendations for future research.

Does the Transition to Grandparenthood Deter Gray Divorce? A Test of the Braking Hypothesis
Susan Brown, I-Fen Lin & Kagan Mellencamp
Social Forces, forthcoming


The gray divorce rate, which describes divorce among individuals aged 50 and older, has doubled since 1990. Extending prior research that showed the transition to parenthood has a “braking effect” on divorce, we examined whether the transition to grandparenthood, an emotionally meaningful midlife event that typically renews midlife marriages, exerts an analogous “braking effect” on gray divorce. Using panel data from the 1998–2014 Health and Retirement Study, we found that becoming biological grandparents has a large deterrent effect on gray divorce that persists even after accounting for a host of other factors known to be associated with divorce. However, the transition to step grandparenthood has no protective effect on gray divorce. Our study demonstrates the importance of the larger family system and in particular the life webs connecting the generations for promoting marital stability among midlife couples.

Touch and social support influence interpersonal synchrony and pain
Marianne Reddan et al.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, forthcoming


Interpersonal touch and social support can influence physical health, mental well-being, and pain. However, the mechanisms by which supportive touch promotes analgesia are not well understood. In Study 1, we tested how three kinds of social support from a romantic partner (passive presence, gentle stroking, and handholding) affect pain ratings and skin conductance responses (SCRs). Overall, support reduced pain ratings in women, but not men, relative to baseline. Support decreased pain-related SCRs in both women and men. Though there were no significant differences across the three support conditions, effects were largest during handholding. Handholding also reduced SCRs in the supportive partner. Additionally, synchronicity in couples’ SCR was correlated with reductions in self-reported pain, and individual differences in synchrony were correlated with the partner’s trait empathy. In Study 2, we re-analyzed an existing dataset to explore fMRI activity related to individual differences in handholding analgesia effects in women. Increased activity in a distributed set of brain regions, including valuation-encoding frontostriatal areas, was correlated with lower pain ratings. These results may suggest that social support can reduce pain by changing the value of nociceptive signals. This reduction may be moderated by interpersonal synchrony and relationship dynamics.



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