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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1994 Jul;67(1):56-68.

The influence of age and gender on affect, physiology, and their interrelations: a study of long-term marriages.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley 94720.


Self-reported affect and autonomic and somatic physiology were studied during three 15-min conversations (events of the day, problem area, pleasant topic) in a sample of 151 couples in long-term marriages. Couples differed in age (40-50 or 60-70) and marital satisfaction (satisfied or dissatisfied). Marital interaction in older couples was associated with more affective positivity and lower physiological arousal (even when controlling for affective differences) than in middle-age couples. As has previously been found with younger couples, marital dissatisfaction was associated with less positive affect, greater negative affect, and greater negative affect reciprocity. In terms of the relation between physiological arousal and affective experience, husbands reported feeling more negative the more they were physiologically aroused; for wives, affect and arousal were not correlated. These findings are related to theories of socioemotional change with age and of gender differences in marital behavior and health.

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