This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Love Me Through It: An Observational Perspective on Health-Related Spousal Support Over Time




McHugh, Kaitlyn

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Human Development and Family Studies


During times of hardship, it is natural for individuals to seek support from those close to them, which may explain why partners turn to each other when faced with health issues. Though partners in all stages of life can experience health concerns that require this support from their spouses, older adults provide a unique opportunity to study these processes as their health needs are often greater. This study takes an innovative approach to investigate the links between spousal support and health by observationally capturing emotional support, instrumental support, and social control via a newly developed health support task. Participants were 64 older heterosexual, higher-functioning married couples who were observed in a 20-minute marital health support task. No gender differences were found in support variables or receptivity to support. However, regression analyses revealed that social control was positively associated with husbands’ subjective health concurrently, but was also linked to declines over time. In contrast, wives’ instrumental support was negatively associated with subjective health concurrently, but was positively associated with subjective health over time. Finally, husbands’ social control was found be positively linked concurrently to wives’ comparative health. Implications of these findings, suggestions for future studies, and practical considerations for clinicians are discussed.