Positive Relationships have Shades of Gray: Age is Associated with More Complex Perceptions of Relationship Quality During the COVID-19 Lockdown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Drawing on socioemotional selectivity theory, we examined the effect of COVID-19 lockdowns on perceptions of romantic relationships quality among older, compared to younger, adults. During the first lockdown in Israel which involved strict restrictions on movement and association with others, 280 adults aged 25–81 reported positive and negative qualities of their romantic relationship. Of these, 105 participants completed the survey again once lockdown restrictions were lifted. Contrary to our hypotheses, no evidence for age differences in the effect of the lockdown on positive or negative perceptions of relationship quality was detected. In addition, the lockdown did not influence participants’ positive and negative perceptions of their romantic partners. However, we did find that, whereas people of all ages represent positive and negative qualities of their romantic partners as separate constructs, the negative association between the two is weaker for older adults compared to younger adults during (but not after) the lockdown. This finding suggests that in stressful times, older adults are better able to avoid negative perceptions clouding positive perceptions and see positive aspects of relationships with romantic partners in the face of negative ones. Findings extend evidence for age associations with complex emotional experiences to emotional aspects of interpersonal relationships. Findings enrich the theoretical understanding of age-related advantages in emotional well-being and may inform potential interventions for improving emotional health and well-being during times of crisis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Adult Development
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

Keywords

  • Affect complexity
  • COVID-19
  • Relationship quality
  • Romantic partners
  • Socioemotional selectivity theory
  • Time horizons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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