DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbae012 ISSN: 1079-5014

Preserving What Matters: Longitudinal Changes in Control Over Interpersonal Stress and Non-Interpersonal Stress in Daily Life

Eric S Cerino, Susan T Charles, Jennifer R Piazza, Jonathan Rush, Ashley M Looper, Dakota D Witzel, Jacqueline Mogle, David M Almeida
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Gerontology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology



Theoretical perspectives on aging suggest that when people experience declines in later life, they often selectively focus on maintaining aspects of their lives that are most meaningful and important to them. The social domain is one of these selected areas. The current study examines people’s reports of control over their daily stressors over ten years, predicting that the declines in control that are often observed in later life will not be observed for stressors involving interpersonal conflict and tensions with social partners.


Adults ranging from 35- to 86-years-old at baseline (N=1,940), from the National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE), reported control over interpersonal and non-interpersonal daily stressors across eight consecutive days at two time points, about ten years apart.


Findings from multilevel models indicate that for non-interpersonal stressors, perceived control decreased over time. In contrast, perceived control over interpersonal conflicts and tensions remained robust over time. No cross-sectional baseline age differences were found for levels of interpersonal and non-interpersonal stressor control.


Results are consistent with socioemotional selectivity and underscore the importance of interpersonal relationships in later adulthood. Understanding how people select and preserve certain aspects of control in their daily life can help guide efforts toward maximizing gains and minimizing losses in domains that matter most to people as they grow older.

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