Petrova, K., Nevarez, M.D., Rice, J., Waldinger, R.J., Preacher, K.J., & Schulz, M.S. (2021). Coherence Between Feelings and Heart Rate: Links to Early Adversity and Responses to Stress. Affective Science, 2(1), 1-13. DOI: 10.1007/s42761-020-00027-5 Manuscript | Supplementary materials | Open materials
Petrova, K., Nevarez, M.D., Waldinger, R.J., Preacher, K.J., & Schulz, M.S. (2021). Self-distancing and avoidance mediate the links between trait mindfulness and responses to emotional challenges. Mindfulness 12(4), 947–958. DOI: 10.1007/s12671-020-01559-4 Manuscript | Supplementary materials | Open materials
SOCIAL SUPPORT NETWORKS ACROSS SIX DECADADES OF ADULTHOOD
Past research shows that social networks get smaller with age. It is believed that this happens, in part, because individuals begin to place greater priority on emotionally meaningful relationships and goals as they grow older. This study investigates the possibility that changing social support needs may also contribute to shrinkage of social networks across adulthood. Using data from 268 individuals who were followed longitudinally for nearly 80 years, the study examined how the number of support providers in people’s networks changes across the adult lifespan. Growth curve analyses revealed that, mirroring the more general pattern of network shrinkage, social support networks become smaller with age. Examining the associations between prospectively collected measures of childhood family environment and later-life social support, we found that individuals who grew up in warmer family environments had larger support networks in adulthood. Parental socioeconomic status was not connected to the size of support networks later in life. Additional exploratory analyses showed that older adults who reported greater variability of emotion regulation strategies in daily life had smaller support networks four to seven years later. This finding provides preliminary support for the idea that age-related declines in the size of social support networks may be partially driven by reduced need for emotional support due to improvements in emotion regulation. Taken together, the findings from this study make important contributions to theoretical perspectives on adult socio-emotional development and underscore the importance of prospectively-collected longitudinal data in developmental research.