Rest from conflict is more common in older people

Rest from conflict — “loyalty” — is passive with respect to the social partner, and is constructive

Rest from conflict—“loyalty”—is passive with respect to the social partner, and is constructive.[1]

Rest from conflict means waiting hopefully

Conflict strategies are defined along two dimensions…

  1. The active–passive dimension indicates whether an individual confronts or avoids the problem.
  2. The constructive–destructive dimension refers to whether the strategy is likely to benefit or harm the relationship.

Based on these dimensions, 4 conflict categories arise: exit, neglect, voice, and loyalty.

  • Exit includes active destructive behaviors, such as yelling and hitting.
  • Neglect encompasses passive destructive strategies, such as pretending the social partner does not exist, sulking, or avoiding interactions.
  • Voice involves active constructive behaviors to directly solve the problem, such as discussing the issue.
  • Loyalty includes passive constructive strategies, such as optimistically waiting for things to change. For example, a person may be irritated but chooses not to say anything to avoid upsetting her social partner.

It is possible that individuals in all age groups usually respond to conflict with active constructive strategies. But, whether people also use active destructive strategies (e.g., yelling) or passive constructive strategies (e.g., doing nothing) varies with age group.

Rest from conflict is less common in younger people, in general

In this study…

…age differences were not accounted for by intensity of distress, relationship quality, contact frequency, or type of social partner.

…younger people were more likely to use exit responses (e.g., arguing, yelling) than older people…

…we did not find that younger people were also more likely to use neglect than older adults.

It is possible that neglect behaviors are not always destructive. Avoiding the person or leaving the situation may be advantageous for relationships if used immediately after a conflict because of extreme anger and the potential to engage in destructive behaviors. These behaviors may be harmful, however, if used over long periods of time.

…older adults were less likely to use certain destructive strategies than younger people.

…there were no age group differences in active constructive (voice) strategies, such as discussion.

…older adults were more likely to report loyalty strategies (e.g., doing nothing)…

…adolescents and middle-aged adults were less likely than oldest–old adults to describe loyalty.

Rest from conflict is more common in young adults and in older people

Young adults and oldest–old adults may have been equally likely to use loyalty because many of the young adults were enrolled in college or may have been employed in low-status jobs, which may encourage the use of loyalty.

It appears that individuals are better able to regulate their behavioral responses to interpersonal problems as they age.

…we found that older adults are more likely to use certain constructive strategies than younger adults.

…older adults were more likely to describe loyalty strategies (e.g., doing nothing) than younger people…[2]

  1. Dowding, Keith, et al. “Exit, voice and loyalty: Analytic and empirical developments.European Journal of Political Research 37.4 (2000): 469-495.
  2. Birditt, Kira S., and Karen L. Fingerman. “Do we get better at picking our battles? Age group differences in descriptions of behavioral reactions to interpersonal tensions.The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 60.3 (2005): P121-P128.

Habit automaticity takes very-many consistent repetitions

Habit automaticity built up asymptotically

Example of increase in automaticity

Habit automaticity on desired new habits was measured daily

…participants were asked to choose a healthy eating, drinking or exercise behaviour that they would like to make into a habit. Participants were asked to try to carry out the behaviour every day for 84 days.

SRHI scores were the primary outcome measures… The behaviour of interest is followed by statements to which participants report their level of agreement; example items are ‘I do automatically’, ‘I do without thinking’ and ‘I would find hard not to do’. We created an automaticity subscale… which gave a total score range of 0–42.

Habit automaticity built fast at first, built slower later, and approached a maximum

…the relationship between repetition and habit strength follows an asymptotic curve in which automaticity increases steadily—but by a smaller amount with each repetition—until it reaches an asymptote (plateau).

SPSS Version 14 was used… to fit a curve for each individual’s data… using Mitscherlich’s law of diminishing returns (y=a-be-cx),
y is automaticity and
x is day of the study…
a’ represents the asymptote of the curve (the automaticity plateau score),
b’ is the difference between the asymptote and the modelled initial value of y (when x=0) and
c’ is the rate constant that represents the rate at which the maximum is reached.

  • An asymptotic model proved to be a good fit for almost half (48%) of the participants who provided enough data for analysis.
  • Those for whom the asymptotic model was a poor fit had typically carried out the behaviour fewer times during the study.
  • Two other groups of participants had relatively high levels of performance; one for whom the model could not be fitted and one with a very high modelled asymptote. It is probable that these individuals were relatively slow in forming their habits and would have reached a plateau if the recording had continued for longer.

On average …the fit of the asymptotic curve was superior to the linear model. We are therefore reasonably confident that the asymptotic curve reflects a generalized habit formation process.

Habit automaticity plateaued only after very many repetitions

We were only able to find one statement in the literature discussing how long it takes to for a habit… once it has been ‘performed frequently (at least twice a month) and extensively (at least 10 times)’…

Our study has shown that it is likely to take much longer than this for a repeated behaviour to reach its maximum level of automaticity.

Early repetitions result in larger increases in automaticity than those later in the habit formation process, and there is a point at which the behaviour cannot become more automatic even with further repetition.

The average modelled time to plateau in this sample was 66 days, but the range was from 18 to 254 days.

Habit automaticity built better when repetitions were consistent

…even in this study where the participants were motivated to create habits, approximately half did not perform the behavior consistently enough to achieve habit status.

…missing one opportunity does not preclude habit formation, but missing a week’s worth of opportunities reduces the likelihood of future performance and hinders habit acquisition.

… individuals who performed the behaviour more consistently showed a change in automaticity scores which was modelled more closely by an asymptotic curve.

Habit automaticity required more repetitions for habits that were more complex

…it can take a large number of repetitions for an individual to reach their highest level of automaticity for some behaviours…

It is notable that the exercise group took one and a half times longer to reach their asymptote than the other two groups. Given that exercising can be considered more complex than eating or drinking, this supports the proposal that complexity of the behaviour impacts the development of automaticity.

…creating new habits will require self-control to be maintained for a significant period before the desired behaviours acquire the necessary automaticity to be performed without self-control.

…reaching a higher asymptote took longer.[1]

  1. Lally, Phillippa, et al. “How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world.European journal of social psychology 40.6 (2010): 998-1009.

Self-care in marriage makes partners more positive, happy, well, and connected

Ackerman's PPIK theory of intelligence as Process, Personality, Interests, and intelligence as Knowledge illustrates the course of self-care, which, in marriage, makes partners more happy, well, positive, and connected

gp = intelligence-as-process
gk = intelligence-as-knowledge
R = Realistic interests
A = Artistic interests
I = Investigative interests
TIE = Typical Intellectual Engagement
gf = fluid intelligence
gc = crystallized intelligence

Illustration of Ackerman’s PPIK theory, outlining the influences of intelligence-as-Process, Personality, Interests, and intelligence-as-Knowledge during adult development, covering academic and occupational knowledge.

The representation indicates that measured fluid intelligence (Gf) develops out of intelligence-as-process (gp), and that measured crystallized intelligence (Gc) develops out of (or is a consequence of) intelligence-as-knowledge (gk).

Interests (Realistic, Investigative, and Artistic) and personality traits (Openness and TIE) are influenced by intelligence to some degree, and in turn, influence knowledge.

Self-care in marriage keeps partners taking small steps that add up

…many intellectually demanding tasks in the real world cannot be accomplished without a vast repertoire of declarative knowledge and procedural skills. The brightest (in terms of IQ) novice would not be expected to fare well when performing cardiovascular surgery in comparison to the middle-aged expert, just as the best entering college student cannot be expected to deliver a flawless doctoral thesis defense, in comparison to the same student after several years of academic study and empirical research experience. In this view, knowledge does not compensate for a declining adult intelligence; it is intelligence!

Moreover, the importance of personality and interests as determinants of the direction and amount of effort expended in the acquisition and maintenance of intelligence-as-knowledge should not be underestimated. Small correlations at the micro-level, when aggregated as influence over time…, may help us predict and understand why some adults continue to acquire knowledge in particular areas and others do not.[1]

Self-care in marriage lets partners build optimism 

Explanatory style is the habitual way in which people explain the bad events that befall them… Three dimensions of these explanations are of interest: stability versus instability, globality versus specificity, and internality versus externality.

A stable cause invokes a long-lasting factor (“it’s never going to go away”), whereas an unstable cause is transient (“it was a one-time thing”).

A global cause is one that affects a wide domain of activities (“it’s going to ruin everything I do”), whereas a specific cause is circumscribed (“it has no bearing on my life”).

Finally, an internal cause points to something about the self (“it’s me”), whereas an external cause points to other people or circumstances (“it’s the heat in this place”).

Pessimistic explanatory style (the belief that bad events are caused by stable, global, and internal factors) predicted poor health at ages 45 through 60, even when physical and mental health at age 25 were controlled. Pessimism in early adulthood appears to be a risk factor for poor health in middle and late adulthood.[2]

Self-care in marriage makes partners more happy and well

The seven protective factors that distinguish the happy-well from the sad-sick are under at least some personal control.

Self-care increases happiness and wellness

Odds ratios of happy-well to sad-sick or dead 
Variable College men age 75-80 Core-city men age 65-70
No alcohol abuse very high 4.56 to 1
Without depressive diagnosis 10.4 to 1 3.51 to 1
Smoking <30 pack-years 4.81 to 1 4.56 to 1
Some regular exercise 3.09 to 1 unknown
Body mass index >21 and <29 3.05 to 1 1.71 to 1
Mature defenses 2.65 to 1 2.98 to 1
Stable marriage 1.94 to 1 2.75 to 1
Parental social class 1.46 to 1 1.12 to 1
Education unknown 0.86 to 1
Ancestral longevity 1.00 to 1 1.00 to 1
Warmth of childhood 0.98 to 1 0.99 to 1
Childhood temperament 0.92 to 1 1.10 to 1


Self-care in marriage makes partners more positive and connected

To be well psychologically is more than to be free of distress or other mental problems. It is to possess positive self-regard, mastery, autonomy, positive relationships with other people, a sense of purposefulness and meaning in life, and feelings of continued growth and development.[4]

  1. Ackerman, Phillip L. “Domain-Specific Knowledge as the “Dark Matter” of Adult Intelligence: Gf/Gc, Personality and Interest Correlates.Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences 55.2 (2000): P69-P84.
  2. Peterson, Christopher, Martin E. P. Seligman, and George E. Vaillant. “Pessimistic Explanatory Style Is a Risk Factor for Physical Illness: A Thirty-Five-Year Longitudinal Study.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 55.1 (1988): 23-27.
  3. Vaillant, George E., and Kenneth Mukamal. “Successful Aging.American Journal of Psychiatry 158.6 (2001): 839-847.
  4. Ryff, Carol D. “Psychological Well-Being in Adult Life.Current Directions in Psychological Science 4.4 (1995): 99-104.

Improve health easily by making small changes

A runner takes a small step forward to improve health easily.

Would you like to improve your health, but making changes seems too overwhelming? Does going to the gym five days a week for 45 minutes trigger hyperventilation, or does just thinking about eating only healthy food leads you to fear of deprivation and starvation? Changes like these are easier to accomplish one step at a time.

Let’s tackle the issue of exercise. Instead of setting an initial goal of going to the gym five times a week for 45 minutes, let’s set a more realistic goal. Your first goal is to do a little preliminary groundwork:

  • For starters, perhaps you need to have a conversation with your doctor.
  • Researching different kinds of exercise to determine what might be the least unpleasant to you and fits your lifestyle is also a good preliminary step. Do you see yourself as a going-to-the-gym person, a working-out-at-home person, or a running- or walking-person? Let’s say you decide that working out at home is a better option for you.
  • Next you can look at which DVDs might interest you or which equipment you might need. I’m betting that purchasing DVDs, a yoga mat, a few weights, and some workout shoes is cheaper than most gym memberships. Plus, you won’t have to wait on other customers at a gym to finish with the equipment you need to use and you won’t have to take time from your schedule to drive to and from the gym.

Once you’ve laid the groundwork, you’re ready for the next step. Start the exercise program. But start it slowly. This approach will also make it less likely that you will injure yourself:

  • Initially, your only goal is to get some exercise into your schedule. For example, maybe you’re going to work out at home on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. If that’s the case, for the first week, all you do is a five-minute warm-up. Five minutes, you say? What a waste of time, you say. Remember, your initial goal is to just get it in your schedule.
  • After the first or second week, you can add a minute or two to your exercise program. And then after that, you can add another minute or two and so on. You can always find another minute or two, but it is very difficult to suddenly find 45 minutes plus drive-time five times a week.

This same idea can be used for improving your diet. Make one change a month:

  • For example, maybe you need to start by drinking more water. If so, that’s the only change you make for the first month.
  • Maybe you need to cut out a few desserts. If that’s the case, then that’s the change you make the second month. If you typically have dessert after most evening meals, maybe you start by cutting out dessert only on Monday nights and then a few weeks later cutting out dessert also on Thursday nights.
  • If you’re drinking too much caffeine, start by cutting out that last cup of coffee of the day. A few weeks later, you can cut out that second cup.

I think you get the idea. Set goals that are achievable, not overwhelming. Set goals that you can be successful at reaching. Success always feels better than failure. If you continue with setting achievable goals, just think where you’ll be in one year.

Pretty amazing, huh? Good luck and you can do it![2]

  1. Schuckles, Erica. “What is a Gait Analysis and Why Do You Need One?”, Accessed 9 Jan. 2017.
  2. Anthony, Michele. “Better Health is Easier than You Think.”, 9 Jan. 2017, Accessed 14 Jan. 2017.

Alcoholism is biggest factor in divorce in 75-year study

Long-term marirages were mostly free of alcoholism.
A lifelong study began with privileged people

This… is about how a group of men adapted themselves to life and adapted their lives to themselves. It is also about the Grant Study, now seventy-five years old, out of which this story came.

The first subjects were 64 carefully chosen sophomores from the all-male Harvard College classes of 1939, 1940, and 1941, who took part in an intensive battery of tests and interviews. That first group was joined by sophomores from the next three Harvard classes…

Marriages provided few clues at first

In 1977 I handed in the manuscript of Adaptation to Life. My editor at Little, Brown, Lewellen Howland, took issue with my contention that divorce was a serious indicator of poor mental health, and suggested gently, “George, it is not that divorce is bad; it is that loving people for a long time is good.” I liked his sentiment, but I didn’t believe him, despite the fact that I myself was in a happy second marriage at age forty. (We’re all the exceptions to our own rules.)

The numbers I’d been working with for the previous ten years didn’t look promising at all. By 1967, seventeen men had divorced. By 1973, fourteen of them had been remarried for longer than a year. Of those fourteen second marriages, eight had already ended in divorce again—you’ll hear about two of those in a little while—and four more showed weaknesses that kept them securely out of the good marriage category. In other words, of the fourteen remarriages, only two looked to be anything like happy, and they were still too new to be trusted. Louie’s a romantic, I thought. All I have to do is wait for thirty years and I’ll be able to show him his error.

Fifteen years later I was still right and Howland was still wrong. When I checked marital history against the best and worst Adult Adjustment Outcome determinations that I had established for that 1977 book, all of the fifty-five Best Outcomes had gotten married relatively early and stayed married for most of their adult lives. (And by the time those men were eighty-five, we learned later, only one marriage had ended in divorce.) In contrast, among the seventy-eight Worst Outcomes, five had never married, and by seventy-five years of age, thirty-five (45 percent) of the marriages had ended in divorce. Proportionately three times as many of the Best Adjusted men enjoyed lifelong happy marriages as the Worst Adjusted.

But as the first decade of the twenty-first century wound to a close, the men were well into their eighties and the Study was still going strong. And so were a bunch of second marriages. I could no longer get away with my flippant dismissal of Louie’s rebuke. I was also intrigued by a growing sense that as the men got older they talked about their marriages differently. So in 2010, after many years of concentrating mostly on aging, I took another look at marriage. This time I was armed with a great deal of information about alcohol use among the men and their wives (which I’ll detail in Chapter 9). And it turned out that Lewellen Howland was a very wise man.

Once again, the long picture was quite different from the shorterterm one. Not about everything. At eighty-five, twenty-six of the twenty-eight men with consistently happy first marriages reported that their marriages remained happy. Marriages that had been poor to start with tended to remain that way, whether they endured without divorce for fifty years or ended, still unhappy, in death. Of the thirty surviving men who had had unhappy marriages between twenty and eighty years of age, only five reported happy marriages after eighty. Four of these were new marriages, undertaken after the first wife had died. None of this was very startling (with the exception of the fifth husband’s mysterious report that he and his wife were “still in love, mutually dependent and the best of friends”). But it was very startling, to me at least, that twenty-three of the twenty-seven surviving divorced and remarried men reported that their current marriages were happy—and had been for an average length of thirty-three years!

68 years in, a new factor in divorce emerged – alcoholism

What magic had occurred in those final years to shed such a different light on the early statistics? None. It was just that a new calculation had cleared away a lot of obscuring underbrush. On second thought, though, maybe it was magic after all—the magic of lifetime study.

…the single most important factor in the Grant Study divorces was alcoholism; thirty-four of the divorces—57 percent—had occurred when at least one spouse was abusing alcohol.

…it looked very much as though alcoholism in a marriage often caused not only the divorce, but also the failed relationships, the poor coping style, and the evidence of shaky mental health.

Alcoholism is still, arguably, the most ignored causal factor in modern social science, and it took the Grant Study sixty-eight years to notice that it was the most important cause of failed marriage.[1]

  1. Vaillant, George E. Triumphs of experience. Harvard University Press, 2012.