Communal Motivation and Well-Being in Interpersonal Relationships: An Integrative Review and Meta-Analysis

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Abstract

The motivation to care for the welfare of others, or communal motivation, is a crucial component of satisfying interpersonal relationships and personal well-being. The current meta-analysis synthesized 100 studies (Ntotal = 26,645) on communal motivation to establish its associations with subjective personal well-being (e.g., life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect) and relationship well-being (e.g., relationship satisfaction, partner-oriented positive affect, and partner-oriented negative affect) for both the person providing communal care and their partner. Three types of communal motivation were examined, including general, partner-specific (for children, parents, romantic partners, and friends), and unmitigated (i.e., devoid of agency and self-oriented concern). Results revealed positive associations between all three forms of communal motivation and relationship well-being for the self (.11 ≤ rs ≤ .44) and relationship partners (.11 ≤ rs ≤ .15). However, only general and partner-specific communal motivation, and not unmitigated communal motivation, were linked with greater personal well-being for both the self (.12 ≤ rs ≤ .16) and relationship partners (.04 ≤ rs ≤ .09). These associations were generally consistent across gender, relationship length, publication status, and lab. Finally, relationship partners were similar in partner-specific (r = .26) and unmitigated (r = .15) communal motivation only. Findings from the current meta-analysis suggest that care for the welfare of others is linked to greater relationship well-being for both members of a relationship. However, communal care is only linked to personal well-being insofar as it is mitigated by a degree of self-oriented concern. We provide theoretical and power recommendations for future research.

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