ANN ARBOR, Mich.---While our relationships with children and best friends tend to become less negative as we age, we're more likely to see our spouses as irritating and demanding.
That's according to a University of Michigan study that analyzed long-term patterns of relationship negativity among more than 800 adults ages 20 and older.
"There's been a lot of research showing that marriage and other close relationships enhance well-being," said Kira Birditt, a research fellow at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). "But less work has focused on the negative aspects of close relationships.
Viewing our spouses more negatively over time may not be all bad, Birditt says. In fact, it might even be, well, positive. "As we age, and become closer and more comfortable with one another, it could be that we're more able to express ourselves to each other. In other words, it's possible that negativity is a normal aspect of close relationships that include a great deal of daily contact."
For the analysis, presented late last year at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, Birditt and colleagues Lisa Jackey and Toni Antonucci looked at individual changes over time and also at differences among people at different stages in life--- young, middle-aged and older adults. Participants in the study were interviewed first in 1992 and again in 2005.
Participants were asked about the negativity of their relationships with three key people in their lives: their spouse or partner, a child, and a best friend. Specifically, they rated the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with the following two statements about each relationship: "My (spouse/partner, child, friend) gets on my nerves" and "My (spouse/partner, child, friend) makes too many demands on me."
At both points in time, older adults (age 60-plus) had the least negative relationships with spouses, children and friends. According to Bir
|Contact: Diane Swanbrow|
University of Michigan