Psychological, Social, and Immunological Outcomes following Marital Separation
AuthorHasselmo, Karen Elizabeth
AdvisorSbarra, David A.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractClose relationships play an integral role in human health (Coan & Sbarra, 2015). It follows, then, that the dissolution of an important relationship can have a variety of negative health consequences (Amato, 2010; Kitson & Morgan, 1990; Sbarra, Law, & Portley, 2011), and social loss confers vulnerability to a range of morbidities and early mortality. Disrupted marital status is one of the strongest sociodemographic predictors of stress-induced physical illness (Somers, 1979) and marital disruption has long been reported as one of life's most stressful events (Bloom, Asher, & White, 1978). Robust evidence links divorce or separation to poorer health outcomes; however, the exact mechanisms through which relationship dissolution influences our health so profoundly are not yet fully elucidated (Sbarra, Hasselmo, & Bourassa, 2015). The current study investigated how changes in psychological responses to divorce are associated with changes in immune responding in recently-separated adults (N = 55). I followed participants over an average of five months, collecting psychological distress measures at three visits, each one month apart, and immune measures at two visits, five months apart. To assess how variability in social engagement is associated with immunological responses following the end of a marriage, I incorporated naturalistic, observational data using a new methodology. I found that an objectively derived composite of social behaviors including (a) time spent with others; (b) time spent socializing/entertaining; (c) time spent in substantive conversation; and (d) time spent receiving positive support predicted concurrent immune outcomes over and above the effects of psychological distress and/or loneliness, and that psychological distress may exert indirect influence on immune outcomes through social integration. Furthermore, attachment style revealed differential longitudinal associations between social integration and immune outcomes. This research expands current knowledge on the immune-relevant outcomes of divorce and separation, and includes new methodology for naturalistically-derived measures of social engagement in determining how this common life stressor is associated with health over time.
Degree ProgramGraduate College