Spousal Influences on Monthly Disability in Late-Life Marriage in the Precipitating Events Project

Joan K. Monin, Holly Laws, Evelyne Gahbauer, Terrence E. Murphy, Thomas M. Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: Few studies have examined spousal influences on disability in late-life marriage, and no prior study has examined these associations using monthly data. Drawing from interdependence theory, we hypothesized that one spouse currently having higher disability would be positively associated with their partner having higher disability in the next month. We also examined whether participants were at risk for increased disability when both spouses had higher prior disability. In addition, we examined gender differences in spousal associations. Method: Data were from 37 married couples in the Precipitating Events Project, an ongoing longitudinal study of 754 initially nondisabled adults aged 70 years and older. Assessments included monthly disability (13 basic, instrumental, and mobility activities of daily living) and demographics. Results: As hypothesized, higher disability in one spouse was positively associated with higher subsequent disability in their partner. Also, wives with higher disability were especially vulnerable to subsequent increased disability when husbands had higher disability. Discussion: Incorporating a spouse's current disability level in modeling older adults' subsequent disability provides additional predictive information. Wives with greater disability may be at a particularly high risk of accelerated decline when their husbands have greater disability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-288
Number of pages6
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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