David A Sbarra

The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, United States

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Publications (60)131.82 Total impact

  • Kyle J. Bourassa · Molly Memel · Cindy Woolverton · David A. Sbarra
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives: Several risk and protective factors are associated with changes in cognitive functioning in aging adults — including physical health, depression, physical activity, and social activities — though the findings for participation in social activities are mixed. This study investigated the longitudinal association between social participation and two domains of cognitive functioning, memory and executive function. A primary goal of our analyses was to determine whether social participation predicted cognitive functioning over-and-above physical health, depression, and physical activity in a sample with adequate power to detect unique effects. Method: The sample included aging adults (N = 19,832) who participated in a large, multi-national study and provided data across six years; split into two random subsamples. Unique associations between the predictors of interest and cognitive functioning over time and within occasion were assessed in a latent curve growth model. Results: Social participation predicted both domains of cognitive functioning at each occasion, and the relative magnitude of this effect was comparable to physical health, depression, and physical activity level. In addition, social participation at the first time point predicted change in cognitive functioning over time. The substantive results in the initial sample were replicated in the second independent subsample. Conclusion: Overall, the magnitude of the association of social participation is comparable to other well-established predictors of cognitive functioning, providing evidence that social participation plays an important role in cognitive functioning and successful aging.
    Aging and Mental Health 09/2015; DOI:10.1080/13607863.2015.1081152 · 1.78 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction: Recently divorced adults report considerable sleep problems, but little research has explored this area. Night-to-night variability of sleep is both common in insomnia and associated with poor subjective well-being. Whether there is an association between night-to-night variability in sleep and well-being in recently separated adults is currently unknown. The goal of the present study was to examine the relationship between night-to-night variability in sleep and both subjective sleep quality and psychological well-being. Methods: Ninety-seven (N= 97) adults (all of whom had been in a marriage or marriage-like relationship for at least 3 years) who had physically separated from their ex-partner within the past five months completed the study measures, including the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) and sleep diaries. Regression analyses were used to predict SWLS from night-to-night variability in total sleep time (TST) and time in bed (TIB), derived by combining night to night differences in minutes and averaging across a week. Results: Variability in TST and TIB were highly correlated. As a result, we tested them in two separate regressions predicting SWLS. Both TIB variability (β= -.31, p < .05) and TST variability (β= -.23, p < .05) significantly predicted SWLS. In a second set of regressions, we included relevant covariates to determine if these effects were still significant after accounting for depression, time since separation, age, sex, parental status, and absolute levels of TST and TIB. TIB variability still significantly predicted SWL (β= -.25, p < .05), while TST did not (β= -.16, p =.08). Conclusion: Adults experiencing recent marital separation may benefit from having more uniform sleep schedules where their time in bed is less variable. Future research should explore night-to-night sleep variability using objective measures of sleep and the relationship between objective sleep variability and well-being. Support (If Any): The data for this project was collected under HD069498 (RB).
    2015 Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, Seattle, WA; 06/2015
  • Kyle J Bourassa · Molly Memel · Cindy Woolverton · David A Sbarra
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    ABSTRACT: Married couples evidence interdependence in their psychological and physical wellbeing across the life span. This is particularly true in aging populations that experience declines in physical health and cognitive ability. This study investigated the effects of partners' physical health and cognition on quality of life (QoL) in a series of bivariate latent curve growth models. The sample included aging married couples (N = 8,187) who participated in the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) study and provided data across 6 years. Results indicated that husbands' and wives' baseline levels and rates of change in QoL covaried significantly over time. In addition, husbands' and wives' physical health and cognition predicted their partners' baseline level of QoL above and beyond their own health and cognition, and these effects were of equivalent size for both men and women. The findings suggest that as couples age, husbands' and wives' QoL, cognition, and health are predictive of their partners' QoL. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
    Psychology and Aging 05/2015; 30(2). DOI:10.1037/pag0000025 · 2.73 Impact Factor
  • Kyle J Bourassa · David A Sbarra · Mark A Whisman
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    ABSTRACT: Although marital dissolution is associated with increased risk for poor mental and physical health outcomes, many people report improvements in functioning after divorce. To study the hypothesis that women in lower quality marriages would report the best outcomes upon separation/divorce, we investigated the combined effects of marital quality, gender, and marital status for predicting changes in life satisfaction (LS). Participants (N = 1,639; 50.3% men) were drawn from a nationally representative sample (Midlife in the United States Study), which included assessments of marital quality, marital status, and LS, at 2 time points (T1 and T2), roughly 10 years apart. Hierarchical linear regression analyses revealed an interaction between marital quality, marital status, and gender when predicting residual change in LS. Divorced women evidenced a negative association between marital quality and later LS, whereas continuously married women had a positive association between marital quality and later LS. In addition, women in higher quality marriages that become divorced showed the lowest LS, and women in lowest quality marriages show the highest LS among women with similar levels of marital quality. There was no association between marital quality and later LS for divorced or continuously married men. This work extends prior findings regarding gender differences in marital quality to postdivorce well-being, and suggests women in the lowest quality marriages may gain LS following divorce. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
    Journal of Family Psychology 04/2015; 29(3). DOI:10.1037/fam0000075 · 1.89 Impact Factor
  • David A. Sbarra · Karen Hasselmo · Kyle J. Bourassa
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    ABSTRACT: In this article, we review what is known about the association between marital dissolution and health outcomes in adults. Two of the major empirical findings in the literature—that most people do well following marital separation and that this life event increases risk for poor outcomes—appear to be in contrast. We provide an individual differences framework for reconciling these competing perspectives and suggest that the bulk of the risk for poor outcomes following marital dissolution is carried by a minority of people. Research focusing on at-risk populations is beginning to shed light on the processes that explain why and how marital separation and divorce are associated with ill health. This article outlines a series of future directions that go beyond individual differences to study these mechanisms.
    Current Directions in Psychological Science 04/2015; 24(2):109-113. DOI:10.1177/0963721414559125 · 3.93 Impact Factor
  • David A Sbarra
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    ABSTRACT: Social relationships play a vital role in health and well-being, and it follows that loss experiences can be highly stressful for some people. This article reviews what is known about the association between marital separation, divorce, and health outcomes. Key findings in the area of divorce and health are discussed, and the review outlines a series of specific questions for future research. In particular, the article integrates research in social epidemiology with research in social psychophysiology. The former approach provides a broad-based estimate of the association between marital status and health outcomes, whereas the latter approach studies mechanisms of action and individual differences associated with increased risk for poor outcomes. The experience of separation or divorce confers risk for poor health outcomes, including a 23% higher mortality rate. However, most people cope well and are resilient after their marriage or long-term relationship ends. Despite the fact that resilience is the most common response, a small percentage of people (approximately 10%-15%) struggle quite substantially, and it seems that the overall elevated adverse health risks are driven by the poor functioning of this group. Several candidate mechanisms and novel (ambulatory) assessment techniques that may elucidate the poor outcomes among people who adapt poorly to separation are discussed. To increase knowledge on the association between divorce and health, three primary areas require more research: a) genetic and third variable explanations for divorce-related health outcomes, (b) better studies of objective social behavior after separation, and (c) increased attention to interventions targeting high-risk adults.
    Psychosomatic Medicine 03/2015; 77(3). DOI:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000168 · 4.09 Impact Factor
  • David A Sbarra
    Perspectives on Psychological Science 03/2015; 10(2):200-201. DOI:10.1177/1745691615569603 · 4.89 Impact Factor
  • Source
    James A Coan · David A Sbarra
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    ABSTRACT: We describe Social Baseline Theory (SBT), a perspective that integrates the study of social relationships with principles of attachment, behavioral ecology, cognitive neuroscience, and perception science. SBT suggests the human brain expects access to social relationships that mitigate risk and diminish the level of effort needed to meet a variety of goals. This is accomplished in part by incorporating relational partners into neural representations of the self. By contrast, decreased access to relational partners increases cognitive and physiological effort. Relationship disruptions entail re-defining the self as independent, which implies greater risk, increased effort, and diminished well being. The ungrafting of the self and other may mediate recovery from relationship loss.
    02/2015; 1:87-91. DOI:10.1016/j.copsyc.2014.12.021
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    ABSTRACT: Marital separation is linked to negative mental and physical health; however, the strength of this link may vary across people. This study examined changes in respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), used to assess cardiac vagal control, in recently separated adults (N = 79; M time since separation = 3.5 months). When reflecting on the separation, self-reported psychological distress following the separation interacted with a polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) and a relevant single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs25531, to predict RSA. Among people reporting emotional difficulties after the separation, those who were homozygous for the short allele had lower RSA levels while reflecting on their relationship than other genotypes. The findings, although limited by the relatively small sample size, are discussed in terms of how higher-sensitivity genotypes may interact with psychological responses to stress to alter physiology.
    Psychophysiology 01/2015; 52(6). DOI:10.1111/psyp.12409 · 3.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Attachment behaviors play a critical role in regulating emotion within the context of close relationships, and attachment theory is currently used to inform evidence-based practice in the areas of adolescent health and social care. This study investigated the association between female adolescents' interview-based attachment behaviors and two markers of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity: cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Unlike the classic stress hormone cortisol, there is very limited investigation of DHEA-a quintessential developmental hormone-in relation to attachment, especially in adolescents. Fifty-five healthy females mean age 14.36 (±2.41) years participated in the attachment style interview. A smaller cortisol awakening response was related to anxious attachment attitudes, including more fear of rejection, whereas greater morning basal DHEA secretion was only predicted by lower levels of reported confiding in one's mother. These attachment-hormone relationships may be developmental markers in females, as they were independent of menarche status. These findings highlight that the normative shifts occurring in attachment to caregivers around adolescence are reflected in adolescents' biological stress regulation. We discuss how studying these shifts can be informed by evolutionary-developmental theory.
    Journal of Youth and Adolescence 09/2014; 44(5). DOI:10.1007/s10964-014-0182-z · 2.72 Impact Factor
  • Mark A Whisman · Angela Li · David A Sbarra · Charles L Raison
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: Poor marital quality is associated with many different indicators of poor health, including immunologic and metabolic responses that have relevance for distal disease outcomes such as diabetes. We conducted this study to evaluate whether poor marital quality was associated with the prevalence of diabetes in a population-based sample of Americans over the age of 50. Method: Participants were married adults from the 2006 (N = 3,898) and 2008 (N = 3,452) waves of the Health and Retirement Study. Participants completed an interview and a self-report questionnaire, and current use of diabetes medication and glycosylated hemoglobin obtained from blood spot samples were used to index diabetes status. Marital quality was assessed with items regarding perceived frequency of positive and negative exchanges with partner. Results: Decreasing frequency of positive exchanges and increasing frequency of negative exchanges with one's spouse were associated with higher prevalence of diabetes among men, but not women at both waves; gender significantly moderated the associations between partner exchanges and diabetes status for the 2006 data. The association between frequency of partner exchanges and diabetes status generally remained significant in men after accounting for demographic characteristics and other risk factors (obesity, hypertension, low physical activity). Conclusion: Poor marital quality as operationalized by rates of positive and negative partner exchanges was associated with increased prevalence of diabetes in men. These results are consistent with prior work on marriage and health, and suggest that poor marital quality may be a unique risk factor for diabetes.
    Health Psychology 08/2014; 33(8):832-40. DOI:10.1037/hea0000064 · 3.95 Impact Factor
  • Kendra N Krietsch · Ashley E Mason · David A Sbarra
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: Although marital separation and divorce are associated with many negative health outcomes, few studies examine the psychophysiological mechanisms that may give rise to these outcomes. This study examined changes in resting blood pressure (BP) as a function of sleep complaints in recently divorced adults. Method: Recently separated adults (n = 138; 38 men) completed a self-report measure of sleep complaints and a resting blood pressure (BP) assessment in the laboratory at three occasions across 7.5 months. Results: Multilevel analyses revealed that although sleep complaints were not associated with concurrent BP, sleep complaints predicted significant increases in both systolic and diastolic BP at the subsequent laboratory visit. In addition, time since the separation from an ex-partner moderated the association between sleep complaints at baseline and resting systolic blood pressure (SBP) 3 months later. People who reported high sleep complaints 10 weeks or more after their separation demonstrated greater increases in SBP. Conclusions: In recently separated adults, greater sleep complaints may index increased risk for future increases in BP. This work helps pinpoint one potential mechanistic pathway linking marital separation with an important, health-relevant biological outcome. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
    Health Psychology 07/2014; 33(10). DOI:10.1037/hea0000089 · 3.95 Impact Factor
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    SLEEP; 06/2014
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    SLEEP, Minneapolis, MN; 06/2014
  • Associated Professional Sleep Societies, Minneapolis, MN; 06/2014
  • Jonathan L Helm · David A Sbarra · Emilio Ferrer
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    ABSTRACT: Questions surrounding physiological interdependence in romantic relationships are gaining increased attention in the research literature. One specific form of interdependence, coregulation, can be defined as the bidirectional linkage of oscillating signals within optimal bounds. Conceptual and theoretical work suggests that physiological coregulation should be instantiated in romantic couples. Although these ideas are appealing, the central tenets of most coregulatory models await empirical evaluation. In the current study, we evaluate the covariation of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) in 32 romantic couples during a series of laboratory tasks using a cross-lagged panel model. During the tasks, men's and women's RSA were associated with their partners' previous RSA responses, and this pattern was stronger for those couples with higher relationship satisfaction. The findings are discussed in terms of their implications for attachment theory, as well as the association between relationships and health. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
    Emotion 04/2014; 14(3). DOI:10.1037/a0035960 · 3.88 Impact Factor
  • David A. Sbarra
    Perspectives on Psychological Science 03/2014; 9(2):209-210. DOI:10.1177/1745691614523137 · 4.89 Impact Factor
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    Arizona Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Sedona, AZ; 01/2014
  • Professional Psychology Research and Practice 01/2014; 45(6):478-487. DOI:10.1037/a0037780 · 1.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Military deployment affects thousands of families each year, yet little is known about its impact on nondeployed spouses (NDSs) and romantic relationships. This report examines two factors-attachment security and a communal orientation with respect to the deployment-that may be crucial to successful dyadic adjustment by the NDS. Thirty-seven female NDSs reported on their relationship satisfaction before and during their partner's deployment, and 20 also did so 2 weeks following their partner's return. Participants provided a stream-of-consciousness speech sample regarding their relationship during the deployment; linguistic coding of sample transcripts provided measures of each participant's (a) narrative coherence, hypothesized to reflect attachment security with respect to their deployed spouse; and (b) frequency of first person plural pronoun use (we-talk), hypothesized to reflect a communal orientation to coping. More frequent first person plural pronounuse-we-talk-was uniquely associated with higher relationship satisfaction during the deployment, and greater narrative coherence was uniquely associated with higher relationship satisfaction during postdeployment. Discussion centers on the value of relationship security and communal orientations in predicting how couples cope with deployment and other types of relationship stressors.
    Family Process 09/2013; 52(3):535-54. DOI:10.1111/famp.12031 · 1.73 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

715 Citations
131.82 Total Impact Points


  • 2005–2015
    • The University of Arizona
      • Department of Psychology
      Tucson, Arizona, United States
  • 2010
    • Pomona College
      • Department of Psychology
      Claremont, CA, United States
  • 2001–2005
    • University of Virginia
      • Department of Psychology
      Charlottesville, Virginia, United States