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Happy You, Happy Me? Couple Interrelations in Subjective Well-Being from a Descriptive, Functional, and Life Span Perspective

Wünsche, Jenna. Happy You, Happy Me? Couple Interrelations in Subjective Well-Being from a Descriptive, Functional, and Life Span Perspective. 2020, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Psychology.

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Abstract

The present dissertation focused on one of the most immediate developmental contexts in adulthood—the romantic relationship—and examined the interrelations in couple members’ experiences of subjective well-being. At the intersection of personality, social, and life span psychology this work sought to corroborate and expand our current understanding regarding the nature and the relational implications of couple interrelations in subjective well-being until the end of the romantic life span.
To that end, three studies were conducted, all of which relied on representative panel data (i.e., SHP, pairfam, SOEP). Couple-level analyses were employed to disentangle the intra- and interpersonal ties between romantic partners’ subjective well-being on the one hand, and their implications for relationship happiness and stability, on the other. Insights derived from these studies can be organized along a descriptive, functional, and life span perspective.
Regarding the descriptive perspective, this dissertation applied the bottom-up model of life satisfaction (Diener, 1984) to the developmental unit of the couple. Findings suggest that couple members’ overall evaluations of life are shaped not only by their own but also by their partners’ satisfaction with various life domains. Taking a closer look at the strength of association between domain and life satisfaction, it was revealed that couple members are more similar than randomly paired individuals in the importance they place on their satisfaction with life together in the household. These similarities in domain importance illustrate that romantic partners are already interdependent in the way they arrive at their overall evaluations of life.
Regarding the functional perspective, this work investigated the role of couple interrelations in subjective well-being for relationship happiness and stability. By disentangling different indicators of couple interrelations and their unique contributions to relationship outcomes, it became evident that stronger couple interrelations in subjective well-being are not universally beneficial. Instead, the present findings suggest that a stronger susceptibility to the romantic partner might be unfavorable in challenging times, facilitating a transactional downward spiral toward separation. By contrast, couple similarities in domain importance and in the strength of romantic partners’ susceptibility to each other predicted higher levels of relationship happiness. These findings illustrate the necessity to capture different indicators of couple interrelations when trying to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of its relational implications.
Finally, and regarding the life span perspective, this dissertation examined couple interrelations in subjective well-being in an end-of-life context. The current results suggest that couple members approaching the death of one partner, as opposed to couples that did not experience this stressful phase of life, showed increasing disparities and weaker between partner correlations in their changes in life satisfaction. However, these diverging developmental trajectories were not rooted in a diminishing transmission of romantic partners’ life satisfaction. Instead, to-be-deceased and to be-bereaved partners remained susceptible to each other’s declining levels of life satisfaction. These findings illustrate that romantic partners seem to co-produce each other’s well- and ill-being until the end of their shared life span as a couple.
Insights gained from this cumulative dissertation will be used to derive an overarching update regarding the understanding of couple interrelations in subjective well-being and to provide an outline of important steps for future research.
Advisors:Grob, Alexander and Tesch-Römer, Clemens
Faculties and Departments:07 Faculty of Psychology > Departement Psychologie > Forschungsbereich Persönlichkeits- und Entwicklungspsychologie > Entwicklungs- und Persönlichkeitspsychologie (Grob)
UniBasel Contributors:Wuensche, Jenna and Grob, Alexander
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:14031
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:V, 178
Language:English
Identification Number:
  • urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-bau-diss140318
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:12 Mar 2021 05:30
Deposited On:11 Mar 2021 08:30

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