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Enacted support during stressful life events in middle and older adulthood: an examination of the interpersonal context

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Birditt, Kira, Toni C. Antonucci, and L. Tighe. 2012. "Enacted support during stressful life events in middle and older adulthood: an examination of the interpersonal context." Psychology and Aging, 27(3): 728-41.

Individuals often turn to their close social ties for support during stressful life events. Although a great deal of work examines perceived support (i.e., support believed to be available should an event occur), less is known about enacted support (i.e., support actually provided during stressful events), especially among middle-aged and older people. The present study investigated whether enacted support (emotional or instrumental) varies by relationship quality and stress appraisals. Participants included 152 adults (principal respondents; aged 50 to 69 years, 63% women) who had experienced three or more stressful life events in the last year and 180 of their identified supportive ties (core network members). Multilevel models revealed that higher quality relationships enact high levels of support irrespective of high or low stress appraisals. In contrast, lower quality relationships enact greater support under conditions of higher stress but less support under conditions of lower stress, suggesting that lower quality relationships are mobilized only under higher levels of stress. Findings are consistent with the support provision process model and highlight the importance of considering relationship context and the stress continuum in studies of enacted support among older adults.

DOI:10.1037/a0026967 (Full Text)

PMCID: PMC3684259. (Pub Med Central)

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