Relationship quality and potentially harmful behaviors by spousal caregivers: how we were then, how we are now. The Family Relationships in Late Life Project

Psychol Aging. 2001 Jun;16(2):217-26.


Structured interview data from 142 caregivers (98 wives, 44 husbands) indicate that more depressed caregivers are more likely to treat their spouses in potentially harmful ways. However, consistent with hypotheses derived from communal relationships theory, when the preillness relationship between caregiver and care recipient was characterized by mutual responsiveness to each other's needs (i.e., was more communal), caregivers were less depressed and less frequently engaged in potentially harmful behaviors. These effects were not attributable to demographic factors, amount of care provided, care recipient dementia status, or length of time in the caregiving role. Rather, multivariate analyses suggest that the extent to which premorbid relationships were communal in nature determines whether caregivers perceive their current relationships as rewarding, which, in turn, predicts caregiver depression and potentially harmful behaviors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Elder Abuse / psychology*
  • Elder Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Georgia
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Research Design
  • Risk Factors
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires