Family Versus Intimate Partners: Estimating Who Matters More for Health in a 20-Year Longitudinal Study

Sarah B. Woods, Jacob B. Priest, Patricia N.E. Roberson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This study tested the extent to which the emotional climate (positive and negative relationship quality) in family relationships and intimate partnerships are each uniquely linked to specific domains of aging health outcomes, over and above the impact of earlier health. Data included partnered participants who completed all three waves of the Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS). We used measures of family and intimate partner strain and support, at MIDUS 1, 2, and 3, and estimated the effects of each on subsequent morbidity and health appraisal (i.e., 10 and 20 years later). Autoregressive cross-lagged paths were modeled using maximum likelihood estimation with robust standard errors. Family strain was associated with later health in both the morbidity, χ2(35) = 411.01, p < .001; root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) = .062, comparative fit index (CFI) = .952; standardized root-mean-square residual (SRMR) = .034 and health appraisal, χ2(35) = 376.80, p < .001; RMSEA = .058, CFI = .956; SRMR = .032 models. Morbidity and health appraisal also predicted later family emotional climate, reciprocally. Intimate partner emotional climate-health pathways were nonsignificant at each wave, in both models. Results are novel and may be the first to indicate the quality of family relationships are a more powerful predictor of aging health than the quality of intimate partnerships. Findings implicate the health of adults should be considered in the systemic context of families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2019


  • Aging
  • Biopsychosocial
  • Couples
  • Family relations
  • Health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Family Versus Intimate Partners: Estimating Who Matters More for Health in a 20-Year Longitudinal Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this