Sociology, Department of


First Advisor

David F. Warner

Date of this Version

Winter 10-2016


Adams, Scott A. 2016. "Examining the Interplay Between Spousal and Non-Spousal Social Support and Strain on Trajectories of Functional Limitations among Married Older Adults." PhD Dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Sociology (Survey Research and Methods), Under the Supervision of Professor David F. Warner. Lincoln, Nebraska: October, 2016

Copyright (c) 2016 Scott A. Adams


Marriage is a key social status related to the distribution of later life disablement. One factor within the marital relationship thought to be consequential for disablement is social support from the spouse. Nonetheless, marriage is not inherently supportive and may also be a source of chronic strain. According to the social support/stress model spousal social support is expected to result in better functional health outcomes while spousal strain is hypothesized to produce poorer functional health in later life. Beyond spousal support and strain, marriage is also embedded in a broader web of emotionally close non-spousal ties that are also likely to serve as contexts for meaningful exchanges of support and strain. However, less is known about the importance of the contingencies between spousal and non-spousal support and strain for the disablement process. Using nationally representative data from a sample of older adults from the 2006-2012 waves of the Health and Retirement Study this dissertation examines the importance of spousal and non-spousal social support and strain for trajectories of functional limitations among older married men and women. Specifically, I analyzed the independent effects of social support and strain across spousal and non-spousal social domains, the interactive effects of domain-specific social support and strain, and the effects of cross-domain interactions between spousal support/strain and non-spousal support and strain. This research further considered whether the independent and interactive effects of social support and strain vary by gender. The results highlight that spousal and non-spousal support/strain are likely to have consequences for the disablement process, though the effects of social support and strain on functional limitations depend on the relationship domain in question and, in some instances, gender. Moreover, in some cases the effects of social support and strain were counterintuitive given the expectations of the social support/stress model.

Advisor: David F. Warner

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Gerontology Commons