Contact: Marjolein Broese van Groenou
One of the advantages of the extended life course is that older couples age together for a longer period of time. This is reflected in the increasing number of golden and diamond wedding anniversaries in the Netherlands (CBS, 2015). At the same time, the number of older persons in a non-traditional spousal relationship is also increasing, with non-traditional referring to remarriage, co-habitation without marriage, and living apart together (LAT). Being in a partner relationship is one of the most important determinants of wellbeing, but being in a partner relationship with poor quality may add to loneliness (De Jong Gierveld et al. 2009). Also, health problems in later life may limit the possibility to maintain a high quality partner relationship: in addition to lacking the capacity to accompany the partner on social and leisure events, it also leads the partner into becoming an informal caregiver. When the partner falls ill, the provision of support and care may also change the partner relationship, albeit not always for the worse. In order to better understand the development of the relationship quality of older couples and its association with the health of both spouses, LASA started to collect information on the partner and the partner relationship in the written questionnaire of the E-wave and continued to collect these data in every following wave. In addition, measures about the relationship quality were also included in the side study on Family Caregiving, in which partners of LASA respondents participated. See the documentation on this side (ancillary) study here.
Measurement instruments in LASA
A short intro to the questions in the questionnaire asks to answer the questions about their partner. From Wave F onwards, it was added that one did not have to co-reside with the partner, to answer the questions. Also, those not co-residing were asked to complete the questionnaire. Still, at all waves there are three groups of mismatches: First, those who had lost a partner to death or divorce still completed the questionnaire, generally only once at the wave following the wave on which they were still partnered. Second, those who did have a (marital) and co-residing partner but did not complete the questionnaire, perhaps due to the fact that they did not wanted to answer questions about their partner. Third, those who had a non co-residing partner following a wave without a partner and who did not complete the questionnaire, perhaps due to the fact that this relationship was rather new. It was decided to exclude the first group (not partnered, questions answered) from the J139 files, as the aim is to consider relationship quality of existing partner relationships.
Quality of relationship (LASA139)
Marital satisfaction QPREL1-QPREL6
Marital satisfaction is measured with six items, selected from the 20 items of the Marital Satisfaction Questionnaire for Older Persons (MSQFOP, Haynes et al. 1992) that assessed one’s satisfaction with specific areas of the marital relationship. The six selected items had the highest factor loadings on the Marital Satisfaction Scale score. Respondents were asked to indicate their current level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the following items:
- The amount of consideration shown by my spouse
- The way disagreements are settled
- How decisions are made in my marriage
- The day-to-day support and encouragement provided by my spouse
- My spouse’s overall personality
- The degree to which my spouse motivates me
Answer categories are 1 = very dissatisfied, 2 = dissatisfied, 3 = a little dissatisfied, 4= satisfied and 5 = very satisfied. Item scores can be summed and then range from 0 = very dissatisfied to 24 = very satisfied.
Evaluation of the relationship QPREL7-QPREL8
Two questions asked about the evaluation of the relationship in present and ten years ago in a rating from 1 = worst possible marriage to 10 = best possible marriage. “What score would you give your marriage or partner relationship?”
Based on the work of the Research Network on Successful Midlife Development (Brim et al., 2004), four questions are used to measure the level of spousal agreement. The question was ‘how strong do you and your partner disagree on the following issues: financial affairs, household chores, leisure time, and spousal attentiveness. Answer categories are 1 = strongly, 2. Considerable, 3 = a little, 4 = not at all. A scale can be constructed ranging from 4 = strongly disagree to 16 = strongly agree.
Good conversations – QPTALK
Finally, one question was raised about the frequency of having a good conversation about important topics: “How often do you and your partner have a good talk about something that is really important to you?” Answer categories run from 1 = at least once a day, 2 = a few times per week, 3 = once per week, 4 = a few times per month, 5 = less than once a month.
Health of the partner (LASA139)
1. Functional limitations QPADL1-QPADL6
Comparable to the items on functional limitations of the respondent, we asked the respondents to indicate whether their partner was able to perform six type of activities:
- walk up and down a staircase of 15 steps without stopping,
- dress and undress him/herself
- stand up from and sit down in a chair
- cut the nails of his/her toes
- walk outdoors for 5 minutes without stopping
- make use of own or public transport
The answer categories were 1 = no, s/he cannot, 2 = yes, without help, 3 = yes, with some help, 4 = yes, with a lot of help, 5 = only with help.
2. Memory: QPMEMO and QPDEME (see also topic: memory partner)
Two questions were asked about cognitive functioning of the partner:
“Does your partner suffer from memory loss?” 1 = no, 2 = yes
“Is your partner diagnosed with dementia by a physician?” 1 = no, 2 = yes.
Use of respite care by R (LASA139)
QPRESP1 to QPRESP4
Finally, from wave I onward, questions were asked about the use of four types of respite care (e.g. care used by the partner to relieve the informal care provided by the respondent):
- your partner visits daycare
- your partner stays overnight in residential care
- your partner sometimes stays over night at residential care (logeervoorziening)
- someone looks after your partner, so you can leave for a part of the day
The answer categories were no or yes.
LASAE139 / LASAF139 / LASAG139 / LASAH139 / LAS3B139 / LASAI139 / LASAJ139 (self-administered questionnaire, in Dutch)
LASAE139 / LASAF139 / LASAG139 /LASAH139 / LAS3B139 / LASAI139 / LASAJ139 (3B, I and J not available yet)
Availability of information per wave1
|Quality of relationship||-||-||-||Sa||-||Sa||Sa||Sa||Sa||-||Sa||Sa|
|Functional limitations of the partner||-||-||-||Sa||-||Sa||Sa||Sa||Sa||-||Sa||Sa|
|Use of respite care by R||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||Sa||Sa|
¹ More information about the LASA data collection waves is available here.
* 2B=baseline second cohort;
3B=baseline third cohort;
MB=migrants: baseline first cohort;
K=future wave 2021-2022
Sa=data collected in written questionnaire
Use in LASA
The Marital Satisfaction Scale has been used in the side study on Family Caregiving. Dyadic partner data was used to link marital satisfaction to the health of both partners in a Actor-Partner Interdependence model (Korporaal et al. 2013). Another publication explores whether marital satisfaction is associated with the partner providing spousal care or not (Knipscheer & Broese van Groenou, 2004). Specific indicators of relationship quality (degree of agreement, frequency of good conversations, evaluation of sex life) were used to examine how marital quality explains differences in emotional and social loneliness among partnered older adults (De Jong Gierveld et al., 2009).
- Brim, O.G., Ryff, C.D., & Kesller, R.C. (2004). How healthy are we? A national study on wellbeing at midlife. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- CBS (2015). Steeds meer gouden en diamanten bruiloften (cbs.nl)
- De Jong Gierveld, J., Broese van Groenou, M.I., Hoogendoorn, A.W. & Smit, J.H. (2009). Quality of marriages in later life and emotional and social loneliness. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 64B, 497-506.
- Haynes, S.N., & Floyd, F.J. (1992). The marital satisfaction questionnaire for older persons. Psychology Assessment, 4: 473-82.
- Knipscheer, C.P.M. & Broese van Groenou, M.I. (2004). Determinanten van zorgbelasting bij partners en kinderen van hulpbehoevende ouderen met fysieke gezondheidsproblemen. Tijdschrift voor Gerontologie en Geriatrie, 35, 96-106.
- Korporaal, M., Broese van Groenou, M.I. & Van Tilburg, T.G. (2013). Health problems and marital satisfaction among older couples. Journal of Aging and Health, 25(8), 1279-1298.
Date of last update: November, 2021