Does Marital Quality Protect against Distress? Marital Quality and Momentary Negative Mood in Later Life

Deborah Carr, Rutgers University
Jennifer Cornman, Independent Consultant

We examine: associations between marital quality (i.e., support and strain) and three indicators of momentary distress (i.e., sadness, frustration, and worry) among older husbands and wives; the relative impact of own versus spouse’s marital appraisals on distress (crossover effects); and the extent to which the impact of own marital appraisals are moderated by spouse’s appraisals. Data are from the 2009 Disability and Use of Time (DUST) daily diary supplement to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (N=722). One’s own marital strain, support, and overall quality are significant predictors of sadness, worry, and frustration; effects do not differ by gender. We find counter-intuitive evidence of cross-over effects; as wives’ level of marital support increase, husbands’ levels of frustration increase. The protective effect of marital support on men’s sadness is amplified when his wife also reports high levels of support. We discuss implications for older spouses’ psychological distress.

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Presented in Session 18: Marriage, Marital Dissolution, and Health