Optimism, pessimism and support in older couples: A longitudinal study

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Objectives: Optimism is linked to varied advantageous outcomes, ranging from improved health to better relationships, while pessimism is linked to reduced well-being. Relatively little is known about how optimism and pessimism may work together to shape the perception of support within marital relationships, and whether perceived support can affect couple-members' optimism and pessimism. Method: We used three waves of a nationally representative sample of older couples (N = 1681 couples), spanning a period of eight years. Partners reported perceived support, optimism, and pessimism in each wave. We used a random-intercept cross-lagged panel model (RI-CLPM) to test within- and between-person effects. Results: At the within-person level, husbands', but not wife's, future expectations were associated with partners' perceived marital support; increases in husbands' pessimism on a given wave were related to decreases in husbands' perceived marital support at the next wave, and vice versa (i.e., actor effect). Within the same wave, increases in husbands' pessimism were associated with wives' decreased perceived marital support. At the between-person level, both partners' optimism and pessimism were associated with marital support. Discussion: Findings suggest that changes in husbands' levels of pessimism propel marital support experiences of both partners. At the methodological level, results highlight the importance of examining interpersonal processes at both the within- and between-levels of analyses, as they may yield divergent patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-657
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • couples
  • optimism
  • pessimism
  • random intercept cross-lagged model
  • support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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