Marital idealization as an enduring buffer to distress among spouses of persons with Alzheimer disease

Norm O'Rourke, Amy Claxton, Anthony L. Kupferschmidt, Juli Anna Z. Smith, B. Lynn Beattie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Few disease processes affect the dynamics of marital relationships like neurodegenerative disorders. Illnesses such as Alzheimer disease strip older adults of a lifetime of memories and, in the latter stages, even the ability to recognize one's spouse and children. In cross-sectional research, marital idealization (or the propensity to idealize one's spouse and relationship) has emerged as significantly associated with the absence of distress among those caring for a spouse with Alzheimer disease. To extend prior findings, multilevel models were computed for the current study to demonstrate that marital idealization predicts both life satisfaction and the relative absence of caregiver burden one year later; moreover, change in marital idealization reflects a corresponding change in the psychological well-being of spouses over this same period (N = 90). Results of this study are discussed relative to the distinct demands of caring for a spouse with a dementing disorder, the health benefits of positive illusions, and demographic trends suggesting that family caregiving will become increasingly prevalent in coming years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-133
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer disease
  • Caregiver burden
  • Life satisfaction
  • Marital idealization
  • Positive illusions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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