Close and caring relationships are undeniably linked to health and well-being at all stages in the lifespan. Yet the specific pathways through which close relationships promote optimal well-being and thriving are not well understood. This project offers an integrative theoretical model describing interpersonal processes that influence human thriving. The goal of this project is to test a model of social support and thriving developed from an integration of three literatures - the positive well-being literature, the social support literature, and the close relationships literature. This model highlights two life contexts through which people may potentially thrive, it proposes two relational support functions that promote thriving in each life context, and it identifies mechanisms through which relational support is likely to have long-term effects on thriving. The model is tested by examining close relationship processes over time in couples who have been married for over a decade. This perspective can help us understand how social support may be a critical interpersonal process that contributes to couples' thriving, and also to individual well-being.

This project examines an integrative model of social support as an interpersonal process that influences thriving. Couples (N = 160) who were newly married in 2005/2006 will again be investigated as they enter their 11th year of marriage. A longitudinal data collection includes surveys with the aim of predicting long-term thriving from observations and surveys obtained in the first years of marriage. The data collection also includes an observational and physiological session to examine the effects of relational support functions on mechanisms that drive long-term thriving outcomes, including physiological mechanisms. The data collection also includes a daily diary component to examine the effects of relational support functions on proximal outcomes. Lastly, in the 12th year of marriage, couples will complete follow-up assessments of thriving with the aim of prospectively predicting thriving from the interpersonal processes assessed in the 11th year of marriage. This project provides a foundation for understanding interpersonal processes and their role in thriving, and the development of relationship-based interventions aimed at promoting public health. This is especially important because social support is a major contributor to well-being and mental health in the U.S. and across the world.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Steven J. Breckler
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Carnegie-Mellon University
United States
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