The transition to retirement is often a difficult time in which people must navigate the changes in their identity from ending a career and beginning a new phase of life. During this life transition, some retirees adjust better than others. Little research has considered the importance of the marital relationship in easing the transition to retirement, which is surprising because older adults depend on their spouses even moreso than people in other age groups. The proposed research seeks to investigate a mechanism, "support for personal-growth," that may help explain why some people flourish after retirement and others falter. Personal growth might occur from experiencing new things and enhance one's ability to accomplish goals. Prior research has shown that (a) personal growth is beneficial for relationships, (b) a partner's support for personal growth has positive effects on the recipient and on the relationship. The proposed research will aim to demonstrate the importance of personal growth during the transition to retirement. Partner support for personal growth may help not only to counteract the potentially negative effects of retirement, but also to promote positive adjustment and development during this critical period for both retirees and their spouses. The proposed research has three goals. First, to determine if, among individuals who have recently retired, partner support for personal growth is associated with adjustment to retirement as indexed by better physical and mental health and satisfaction with retirement, both initially and over time. Second, it will examine whether partner support for personal growth is associated with, and predicts change over time in, relationship satisfaction, actual personal growth, and stress. Third, it will consider the role of two individual difference variables, attachment security and dispositional need for personal growth, on the links between partner support for personal growth and relationship satisfaction, actual personal growth, and stress. These hypotheses will be tested in a three part study (a) a moderately large-scale panel study survey administered to a representative community sample of just retired individuals and their spouses, (b) a longitudinal follow-up assessing partner support for personal growth and adjustment to retirement and (c) an observational study in which retirees are videotaped as they discuss with their spouses the opportunities that they hope to take advantage of during retirement and researchers code for partner support for personal growth. This research would have two important benefits (a) it suggests a way in which relationship partners might help retirees adjust to the difficulty that many individuals experience as they transition from the workplace to retirement and (b) it suggests ways in which a person might experience enhanced personal and relationship well-being, thus developing healthy patterns that will be beneficial later in life. The knowledge gained from this research has the potential to inform public policy and could be influential in developing interventions to help retirees adjust to this life phase.
The transition to retirement is a milestone in life and is often accompanied by physical and mental health consequences, because a large portion of the population is about to retire, it is important to understand the experience of retirement. The proposed research investigates a mechanism, partner support for personal- growth, which is expected to affect physical and psychological health both initially and over time. This study has important applied implications for how spouses of retirees might help ease the transition to retirement and will provide a foundation for the development of interventions and public health programs that might enhance the health and well-being of retirees and their families.