Although compassionate love has been identified as a key characteristic of healthy relationships, it is unknown how it changes over time. Thus, both self- and spouse-reported compassionate love toward a spouse were assessed from a sample of 64 older married couples to begin to understand the course of compassionate love and to identify predictors of potential changes over a 1-year period. In contrast to prior theoretical and cross-sectional work, results indicated that compassionate love modestly declined over two waves spaced approximately 17 months apart. Although health was largely unrelated to compassionate love, wives’ attachment avoidance emerged as a consistent, negative predictor of compassionate love for both husbands and wives. These preliminary findings raise some concern for older spouses as they transition into more caregiving roles, as the need for compassionate love is theorized to be greater later in life. Future research should focus on replicating these findings in more diverse samples of older adults to capture how compassionate love develops amid the unique challenges associated with aging.
- Attachment theory
- compassionate love
- older adults
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science