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Supplementary Material for: Empathy and Coping: Older Adults’ Interpersonal Tensions and Mood throughout the Day

posted on 09.12.2020, 08:18 by Huo M., Ng Y.T., Birditt K.S., Fingerman K.L.
Introduction: Scholars have proposed that empathy is a key feature of strong social ties, but less is known about the role empathy plays when tensions arise. Objective: We examined whether older adults’ empathy was associated with (a) coping strategies for interpersonal tensions, and (b) mood when there were tensions throughout the day. We also explored whether coping strategies explained the potential buffering effect of empathy on older adults’ momentary mood. Methods: Older adults (N = 302) from the Daily Experiences and Well-Being Study completed a baseline survey on empathy and coping strategies. They also completed ecological momentary assessments every 3 hours each day for 5–6 days, which included questions about interpersonal tensions and mood. This study considered tensions with close partners (e.g., family and friends) and with non-close partners (e.g., acquaintances and service providers). Results: In the face of interpersonal tensions, more empathic older adults reported using more constructive and less destructive coping strategies than less empathic older adults, regardless of their closeness to social partners. Being more empathic also buffered older adults’ mood when tensions occurred with close partners, but this buffering effect was not mediated by older adults’ general preference for coping strategies. Conclusion: This study advances our understanding of empathy and interpersonal tensions in later life, with a focus on daily experiences.