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The 5 minute 'Health' read - Relationships: recent research (December)

I read a fair amount of research and thought some people might be interested in recent studies that I've found helpful.  I plan to write an approximately 1,200 word (5 minutes to read) blog post pretty much every week, highlighting helpful material that has emerged in the previous couple of months.  I'll rotate through six topic areas ... Lifestyle, Positive Psychology, Relationships, Ageing, Psychedelics, and Meditation.  I also plan to write occasional posts where I go into more detail about particular related subject areas. 

Here, for example, are seven Relationships abstracts mostly published in the last few weeks.  The Naidu et al Reliving the good old days study is 'reassuring' for some of our possible social interactions during this holiday period.  The How did you stay together so long? paper is also fascinating intergenerationally and could be an interesting topic of conversation!?  Walsh et al's paper comparing happiness of singles and those in couple relationships is reassuring for singles maybe ... and the seven identified predictors of life satisfaction are interesting in their own right.  They are interpersonally ... friend satisfaction, closest friend intimacy, family satisfaction, and romantic satisfaction ... and intrapersonally ... self-esteem, perceived stress, and physical health.  The Marabel-Whitburn study is helpful too with its finding ... Supporting men, and particularly fathers, to maintain appropriate investment in peer networks may have benefits for their romantic relationships.  And the Wang, Brown & Jakubowska are all intriguing too.


Naidu, E., S. Gabriel, et al. (2024).  Reliving the good old days: Nostalgia increases psychological wellbeing through collective effervescence.  Social Psychological and Personality Science 15(1): 22-32.

         Nostalgia, a sentimental longing for one’s past, is associated with, or confers, psychological wellbeing (PWB). We identified a mechanism for this link: collective effervescence, a potent sense of connection to those present in an assembly and a sensation of transcendence (i.e., feeling that an experience is special or sacred). In six studies, involving measurement-of-mediation and experimental-causal-chain designs, nostalgia was associated with, and led to, higher PWB via collective effervescence. In Study 1, nostalgia was related to PWB through collective effervescence at the dispositional level. In Study 2, induced collective effervescence increased PWB. In Studies 3a–3c, induced nostalgia led to greater PWB due to collective effervescence. In Study 4, induced nostalgia increased PWB due to collective effervescence even when controlling for authenticity, an alternate mediator.


Heim, C. and C. Heim (2023). “How did you stay together so long?” relationship longevity, a cross-generational qualitative study.  Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 49(4): 781-801.

         Abstract This global qualitative study adopted a cross-generational approach considering key factors contributing to relationship longevity. Relatively few studies consider factors leading to relationship longevity as articulated by couples themselves, and there is a paucity of research considering young couples' questions regarding relationship longevity. This study has two sample groups. In sample one (n = 137) we asked individuals in relationship of 3–15 years questions they would ask couples in marriages of 40+ years. We then asked our second sample of coupled individuals married 40+ years (n = 180) these questions. The primary question from the younger couples to couples in long-term marriages regarded their “secret” to relationship longevity. This study focuses on this one question and coupled individuals' self-articulation of their “secrets” to relationship longevity. The top seven were (1) commitment, (2) altruism, (3) shared values, (4) good communication, (5) compromise: give and take, (6) love, and (7) never give up. The clinical implications for couple therapists are discussed.


Walsh, L. C., C. Horton, et al. (2023).  Happily ever after for coupled and single adults: A comparative study using latent profile analysis.  Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 40(12): 3955-3982.

         Many people believe that “living happily ever after” involves finding a romantic partner. Regardless, it seems obvious that at least some single people are happier than some coupled people. But how likely is it, and what factors predict whether singles will be as happy as their coupled peers? The present paper addressed these questions via a secondary analysis of an existing cross-sectional dataset (N = 2,000) of coupled (n = 1,438) and single (n = 562) adults. We identified 10 candidate predictors of life satisfaction, seven of which were significant in multiple regression models. Using the seven significant predictors as indicators in latent profile analysis (LPA), we identified four distinct profiles (or groups) of coupled adults and six distinct profiles of single adults. We then further conceptualized these profiles in terms of interpersonal indicators (friend satisfaction, closest friend intimacy, family satisfaction, and romantic satisfaction) and intrapersonal indicators (self-esteem, perceived stress, and physical health). Some profiles had very favorable levels of interpersonal and intrapersonal indicators and some had very unfavorable levels, while several profiles fell in between the two extremes with a range of nuances. Overall, people with favorable levels were happier than those with unfavorable levels—regardless of their relationship status, but disadvantages in one area (e.g., self-esteem) could be offset by advantages in another area (e.g., friendship satisfaction). Most importantly, in comparing single and coupled profiles directly, we found that the vast majority of single adults follow a range of life satisfaction patterns (from happy to unhappy) that is nearly identical to that of their coupled peers.


Marabel-Whitburn, K., C. J. Greenwood, et al. (2023).  Balancing friends and romance: Associations between men’s investment in peer relationships and romantic relationship quality.  Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 40(12): 4102-4123.

         Romantic and peer relationships both contribute to overall well-being; however, each demand time and emotional investment that may give rise to competition. Little is known about how men, in particular, balance these relationships. We explored the extent to which men’s investments in peer relationships are associated with romantic relationship quality. We further examined differences between fathers and non-fathers. Data were from five annual waves of the Men and Parenting Pathways cohort study (N = 608). Participants were men in committed relationships (n = 526) aged 28-32 years at baseline (M = 29.91, SD = 1.3). In cross-sectional, linear regressions, estimated using Generalised Estimating Equations (GEE; to account for repeated waves), we investigated peer network investments, (1) time (hours) spent with peers, (2) close network size, and (3) extended network size, and their associations with romantic relationship quality, self-reported using the Dyadic Adjustment Scale. Inverted U-shaped associations were found for time spent with peers and close network size, whereby increases in investment were associated with improved relationship quality up to a “tipping point”, following which declines in quality are observed. For extended social networks, the association was linear, such that larger networks were linked to higher romantic relationship quality; however, this association was only evident in fathers. Investing too little or too much in peer relationships may adversely impact the quality of men’s relationships with romantic partners. Supporting men, and particularly fathers, to maintain appropriate investment in peer networks may have benefits for their romantic relationships.


Wang, A. M., S. Chen, et al. (2023).  Perceiving couples as discrete units: The existence of couple-level identities.  Personal Relationships 30(3): 868-892.

         Abstract The present studies examined the often-implicit notion that people think about couples as discrete entities, distinct from the individuals therein—a concept we refer to as couple-level identities. Findings suggest that people perceive both their own and other couples as distinct units (Study 1) that can possess dyadic qualities unique from those of either couple member. Exploring the implications of these identities, Studies 2 and 3 examined how couple-level identities (beyond the identities of the individuals) influence social judgment (e.g., cognitive biases). Finally, Study 4's findings suggest that perceptions of discrete couple-level identities are natural parts of everyday social cognition. Together, results suggest the need to consider couple-level identities in research on the self, social perception, and close relationships.


Brown, M., D. F. Sacco, et al. (2023).  Physical strength as a heuristic cue of political conservatism.  Personality and Individual Differences 215: 112393.

         Physically formidable men are motivated to pursue strategies to acquire resources and status through direct competition and the promotion of hierarchical social organization. In service of these priorities, these men support social policies favoring the use of aggressive bargaining and hierarchy-maintenance strategies. Given these associations, we hypothesized physical strength may function as a heuristic cue of political conservatism. Participants in four unique U.S. samples assessed the political orientation of men who varied in physical strength and musculature, considering various facets of what constitutes conservatism. Physically strong men appeared more conservative to perceivers (Study 1; N = 203). Neither type of conservatism (social versus fiscal) nor presence of wealth cues moderated effects (Study 2; N = 302). Perceivers further regarded liberty as most central to strong men's morality (Study 3; N = 179). Similar perceptions emerged for muscularity as cue to upper body strength (Study 4; N = 210). We frame results from an affordance management framework, wherein perceivers identify the potential social opportunities and costs of social targets based on physical features that inform trait inferences.


Jakubowska, A., A. Zajenkowska, et al. (2023).  Anger sensitivity and relatedness frustration as predictors of depression.  Personality and Individual Differences 215: 112379.

         Depression is more prevalent in individuals raised in cold and violent families, which can lead to a lack of connection or frustration in relationships and heightened sensitivity to signs of danger, such as anger on faces. These factors can both exacerbate symptoms of depression. However, research into the links between depressive symptoms and relatedness frustration, as well as depressive symptoms and anger sensitivity, has been limited. This study aims to address this gap by investigating these relationships. The study recruited 1241 participants from the general population, who completed an online task involving the recognition of emotions on morphed faces and questionnaires measuring depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, HADS-M) and relatedness frustration (Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction and Frustration Scale, BPNSFS). As expected, the results showed that depressive symptoms were positively associated with relatedness frustration, however, were negatively associated with anger sensitivity. Both factors were also found to be significant predictors of depressive symptoms. Our results are noteworthy especially given the fact that we are living in a time of staying in the home for extended periods of time, which is associated with cognitive decline and depression.







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