Benefits of Negative Social Exchanges for Emotional Closeness

Department of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Sino Building, Chung Chi College, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong.
The Journals of Gerontology Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences (Impact Factor: 3.21). 09/2009; 64(5):612-21. DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbp065
Source: PubMed


Negative exchanges in social relationships have traditionally been studied as having negative consequences. This study explored whether they might have positive effects for relationship closeness. The sample included 351 adults, aged between 18 and 91 years, residing in Hong Kong, China. Closeness of social partners to the participants was measured by the Social Convoy Questionnaire, and the levels of negative exchanges and social support from each social partner were assessed. Multilevel analyses revealed that more negative exchanges were associated with a more positive change in closeness over a 2-year period, even after statistically controlling for social support and sociostructural characteristics of the participant and the social partner. Findings extended our knowledge on the positive effects of negative exchanges and their moderating conditions.

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    • "Negative social exchanges may also, ironically, lead to more positive experiences in the future for older adults. For example, one study found that older adults reported that the same social partners who were sources of negative exchanges at one point in time were also the same social partners who increased in emotional closeness over time (Fung, Yeung, Li, & Lang, 2009). Older adults may be able to ignore problems with their close social partners because these relationships are also a source of emotional closeness and intimacy over time. "
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