|Abstract or Summary
- The social aspects of older adults lives are strongly linked to well-being outcomes. Social relationships in older adulthood are rewarding, but also complex, and to maintain a positive social environment, older adults must reconcile long relationships histories, negotiate changing roles, and deal with increasing dependencies. Older adults are known to be particularly effective at regulating their social environments under these circumstances to maximize satisfaction, but some are more successful than others. Older adults manage their social environments through processes of relationship regulation, where individuals actively work towards social goals to customize their social environments and close relationships to meet developmental and emotional needs. Importantly, relationship regulation is embedded in older adults’ social environments, which are not only an outcome, but also the context that inspires, motivates, and hinders efforts to change the social environment. Within the proximal social environment older adults may experience support, hindrance, and satisfying contact with close social partners. Although supportive social environments are related to health and well-being in old age, and evidence suggests that older adults regulate their relationships, little is known about how these goals are worked towards and achieved on a daily basis and within the context of older adults' daily lives. The current study had two distinct aims: (a) to understand the intraindividual processes of regulating social goals within daily context of the social environment; and (b) to examine how interindividual differences predict between-person differences in social regulatory processes. Specifically, this study investigated the degree to which older adults depend on daily support and contact with a close social partner to make progress towards a meaningful social goal, and also the extent to which perceptions of social hindrance impede goal progress. On an interindividual level, this study examined how differences in the proximal social environment and goal orientation are linked to differences in social regulatory processes. Data from the Personal Understanding of Life and Social Experiences (PULSE) project, a 100-day, internet-based microlongitudinal study of 100 Oregon residents age 52 to 88 (M = 63.13, SD = 7.8), were used to explore processes of relationship regulation. At the beginning of the study, participants created a meaningful social goal, and mapped their social convoy. Participants then tracked their daily goal progress and feelings of social support, hindrance and satisfaction over a 100-day time period. Analysis was conducted using multilevel random coefficient models, and was structured to examine within person processes. Daily experiences of goal progress were positively related to social support and contact satisfaction, and negatively related with social hindrance. Importantly, these associations varied greatly between participants, in part as a function of convoy composition and goal orientations. The results from this study suggest that relationship regulation is (a) embedded in the social context of daily life; (b) differs based on the structure of the proximal social environment; (c) contingent on regulatory strategies selected by older adults to work towards their goals; and (d) differentiated by mean tendencies. The linkages between support, hindrance and contact satisfaction with daily goal progress found in this study suggest that the process of working towards a social goal is dependent on older adults' daily social contexts. This has implications for populations with varying access to social support and exposure to social hindrance. Further, individual differences in social regulatory processes were only partially explained by convoy structure and goal orientation. Future research is needed to search for the mechanisms that drive these between person differences in social regulatory processes.