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Spatial proximity as a behavioral marker of relationship dynamics in older adult couples

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Abstract

Background: Close relationships in older adulthood are characterized by heightened interdependence, which has implications for health and well-being as partners age together. Purpose: We describe a novel method that uses partners’ spatial proximity to examine the dynamics of interpersonal relationships. Research Design: In a sample of 10 older adult couples over a 14-day study period, we linked a continuous measure of partners’ spatial proximity with partners’ heart rates—a physiological marker of arousal. Results: Cross-correlations showed that proximity was consistently associated with each partner’s heart rate, but the magnitude and sequence of the correlation varied from day-to-day, suggesting that the coupling of proximity and heart rate is a dynamic of the interaction, rather than the couple. Additionally, our predictive model showed that all three time-series were necessary for optimal prediction, demonstrating that proximity and partners’ heart rates are dynamically intertwined. Conclusion: Together, these results demonstrate meaningful and predictable variation in couple dynamics at the momentary level that consists of a complex association between physiological and spatial proximity.

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... Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 0(0) processes that can change in tumultuous and variable ways across time, situations, and partners. For example, nonlinearity can be defined as a function of patterns between variables (e.g., curvilinear effects, Chopik et al., 2022, Lafit et al., 2022; also see correlated intercepts, slopes or residuals, Dugan et al., 2022), within variables over time (e.g., within-person variation, Eller et al., 2022), and/or within variables between dyads (e.g., time-series analyses, Ogolsky et al., 2021). More complex models can reveal the dynamic ways in which partners' emotions (e.g., change point detection, , behaviors (e.g., sequence analysis, Solomon et al., 2022), or physiological responses (e.g., couple-oscillator model, Kuelz et al., 2022), unfold or shift abruptly across time. ...
... Although typically conceived as unfolding across time during specific interactions, dyadic interactions also occur at varying levels of proximity. Ogolsky et al., (2021) link continuous measures of individuals' spatial proximity in their homes with their partner's heart rates during daily life to determine whether and how proximity is associated with both partner's physiological responses. Data across three time-series profiles illustrate that not only does lagged-feedback (i.e., cross-correlations across time) emerge between husbands' heart rate, wives' heart rate, and each couple's proximity, but that predicting any of these variables requires critical information about the other two variables. ...
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To investigate whether a support intervention (warm touch enhancement) influences physiological stress systems that are linked to important health outcomes. Growing evidence points to a protective effect of social and emotional support on both morbidity and mortality. In this study, 34 healthy married couples (n = 68), aged 20 to 39 years (mean = 25.2 years), were randomly assigned to a "behavior monitoring" control group or participated in a 4-week intervention study in which clinic levels of plasma oxytocin, 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure, and salivary cortisol and alpha amylase were obtained pre and post intervention, at the same time salivary oxytocin was taken at home during weeks 1 and 4. Salivary oxytocin was enhanced both early and late in the intervention group and alpha amylase was reduced at post treatment in intervention group husbands and wives relative to controls. Husbands in the intervention group had significantly lower post treatment 24-hour systolic blood pressure than the control group. Increasing warm touch among couples has a beneficial influence on multiple stress-sensitive systems.
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This paper presents evidence from three samples, two of college students and one of participants in a community smoking-cessation program, for the reliability and validity of a 14-item instrument, the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), designed to measure the degree to which situations in one's life are appraised as stressful. The PSS showed adequate reliability and, as predicted, was correlated with life-event scores, depressive and physical symptomatology, utilization of health services, social anxiety, and smoking-reduction maintenance. In all comparisons, the PSS was a better predictor of the outcome in question than were life-event scores. When compared to a depressive symptomatology scale, the PSS was found to measure a different and independently predictive construct. Additional data indicate adequate reliability and validity of a four-item version of the PSS for telephone interviews. The PSS is suggested for examining the role of nonspecific appraised stress in the etiology of disease and behavioral disorders and as an outcome measure of experienced levels of stress.
Social interrelations in aging: The sample case of married couples
  • C A Hoppmann
  • D Gerstorf
Hoppmann, C. A., & Gerstorf, D. (2016). Social interrelations in aging: The sample case of married couples. In K. W. Schaie, & S. L. Willis (Eds.), Handbook of the Psychology of Aging (Eighth Edition) (pp. 263-277). Academic Press. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/ B9780124114692000145