Relationship Processes Within the Social Convoy: Structure, Function, and Social Goals

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Abstract

Objectives.

The structure and function of older adults’ social convoys contribute to health and well-being in later life, but little is known about how they may shape one another. In this study, we consider relationship quality as a within-person process by examining its covariation with social goal progress and investigate variation in these relationship processes across differences in convoy composition.

Method.

We analyzed data from 99 older adult participants (age = 53–88 years) from the Personal Understanding of Life and Social Experiences project, a web-based, 100-day microlongitudinal study. Participants logged daily social goal progress and contact satisfaction with their 5 closest social partners.

Results.

Multilevel analysis found social goal progress to be higher on days when individuals’ contact satisfaction was above their average level. The strength of this association varied significantly across participants and was stronger among those with family-intensive convoys. Daily contact satisfaction also explained more variation in goal progress than a standard measure of relationship quality.

Discussion.

Daily measures of contact satisfaction help us understand processes within older adults’ social convoys and complement standard measures of relationship quality. Findings suggest that older adults’ utilization of their close relationships varies in part by structural qualities of their convoys.

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