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article imageWhy offering positive support can have negative consequences

By Tim Sandle     Feb 8, 2017 in Health
It may initially seem counterintuitive but psychologists have run studies that show offering positive support to your spouse can have negative consequences in certain circumstances.
The research comes from psychologists working at Binghamton University, State University of New York. The findings were based on a study involving married couples. The study involved sixty-five married couples, with basis involving the couples discussing and engaging in different topics. The subject matter of the topics related to things that can add stress into a marriage. Topics selected included being overweight or seeking a new job.
Prior to the discussions taking place the each partner filled out a questionnaire about their expectations. They also considered their partner's likely responsiveness during the discussion.
Also, prior to the meetings, the scientists took saliva samples from each spouse and assessed them for levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone, in the glucocorticoid class of hormones. It is released in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration. Similar samples were also taken following the discussion.
The results of the study were interesting, with the level of stress experienced by a wife dependent upon wives' perceptions of their husbands' responsiveness as indicated by wives' changes in cortisol.
Explaining this further, lead researcher Hayley Fivecoat said in her research briefing: "What we found, interestingly enough, was that cortisol was really only affected in wives but not in husbands, and only in wives' discussions.” Interestingly when husbands became more supportive this often led to an increase in the wives’ cortisol levels, suggesting that some types of positive support actually cause stress levels to increase.
The inference of the study is that the skill in delivering and receiving social support (by using more "positive" support behaviors) is not consistently linked to actual reductions in cortisol. Therefore more positive behaviors can lead to unintended negative consequences.
This means, Fivecoat summarizes: “Say a husband is giving advice to his wife when she has a problem. Even though giving advice is a constructive thing to do, it may not be helpful to her at the moment; maybe she just wants someone to listen to her."
The researchers aim to look at these matters further. The findings have yet to be published in a journal. Meanwhile, in related news about stress, the latest in stress relief technology – NuCalm – has been released. The aim of the device is to assist users in de-stressing from the pressures of modern life.
More about Psychology, Cortisol, Stress, Marriage
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