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Seeing our spouses more negatively might be a positive
Date:2/5/2008

ditt, this finding is consistent with other research showing that older adults are likely to report less conflict than do younger adults in their relationships.

Participants in their 20s and 30s reported having the most negative relationships overall.

For all age groups, including adults in their 40s and 50s, the spousal relationship was seen as the most negative and it tended to increase in negativity over time.

"The increases in negativity over time may be indicative of learned patterns of interaction which have been reinforced and tend to persist over time," Birditt said. "Other studies have found that negative communication increases over time and relationship quality decreases, especially after having children."

"Interestingly, as relationships with spouses become more negative, relationships with children and friends appear to become less demanding and irritating over time."

In future research, Birditt plans to study how the way we respond to negativity influences well-being. "How we respond to negativity in close relationships affects every aspect of our lives---at work and at home," she said. "In fact, it's likely that how we deal with it---not whether it exists---is what really matters. One thing I'm interested in exploring is how avoidance affects negativity over time. All kinds of research show that older people have less negative relationships. And we also know that older adults are more likely than younger people to report that they try to deal with conflict by avoiding confrontations, rather than by discussing problems.

"That may be another reason that negativity tends to increase over time in the relationship with a partner or spouse---when you're living together, it's a lot harder to avoid each other."


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Contact: Diane Swanbrow
swanbrow@umich.edu
734-647-9069
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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