Principle Investigator: Lori L. Wadssworth, Romney Institute of Public Management and Co-PI: Wendy Birmingham, Department of Psychology
This research project explores the relationship between work social support, work-family balance, and marital quality on physical factors, measured by ambulatory blood pressure. The data collection involves each spouse wearing an ABP monitor for 24 hours. The monitor randomly takes ambulatory blood pressure readings throughout the day, at which time the respondent completes a daily diary record. Each spouse also completes a Qualtrics survey with measures of marital quality, work-family balance, social support, life satisfaction, and measures of health behaviors. We plan to collect data from 100 couples; thus far, approximately 85 couples have completed the data collection process.
Evaluation of the academic objectives:
Our objectives related to mentoring were to provide an active learning environment where undergraduate students would receive training and be involved in all aspects of the research study. We specifically focused on recruitment, data collection and monitoring, data analysis, research presentations, and manuscript preparation. Students participated in the following ways:
Recruitment – recruit participants in appropriate and ethical ways; respond to potential participant requests and review the criteria for inclusion in the study; schedule times for participants to come to the lab
Data collection and monitoring – work directly with the participants; prepare and understand research protocol; respond to any questions; set up participants for the study
Data analysis – although all students received some training on the data analysis portion of the study, two students received specific training on setting up a data management system, and were responsible for making sure the data was appropriately stored and were involved when analysis was conducted
Research presentation – students were invited to participate in research presentations. For those who participated, they were trained on the data analysis, as well as the write-up and the actual preparation of the posters.
The following undergraduate students received wages from the MEG grant:
Mia Rebecca Felin
Steven Daniel Gay
Erika Ching Lian Lee
Yukino Nicole Strong
Tyson Dean Wade
Evaluation of the mentoring environment
The study provided opportunities for students to increase their research and presentation skills, and has been particularly useful for students who plan to pursue graduate-level education. The students have received extensive training on each aspect of the study, and have become proficient in their skills. In fact, there were several meetings when the students provided training to other students, particularly those who had recently joined our research team. Wendy and I attended those trainings to provide support for the students in that training capacity and to monitor the level of training, and we were always pleased with the skills of the students, and their ability to share that knowledge with others.
Regular meetings were held with the undergraduate students and the PI’s of this research project. At these meetings, trainings were conducted, students reported on the status of their assignments, and any concerns or issues were raised. In addition, informal training and assistance were provided from the PI’s through individual meetings and emails, as needed.
With the MEG grant, we were able to work with more undergraduate students than we originally anticipated. This has provided the means and opportunity to mentor additional students in the research process. One of the highlights of our experience was watching one of our students, Erin Kaseda, present at the American Psychosomatic Society conference. She was well-prepared and well-spoken in her presentation, and received recognition from the Society as a young student scholar.
We have made the following conference presentations and student-led poster presentations with the preliminary analysis available with a partial dataset:
Birmingham, W. C., Wadsworth, L. L., Hung, M., Kaseda, E., Wade, T., & Eversole, K. (March 2017). Marital relationship quality begins with me: The impact of one’s own behavior toward spouse on ambulatory blood pressure. Poster presentation, American Psychosomatic Society Annual Meeting, Seville, Spain.
Wadsworth, L. L., Birmingham, W. C., Hung, M., Kaseda, E., & Wade, T. (March 2017). The relationship between work social support and ambulatory blood pressure. American Psychosomatic Society Annual Meeting, Seville, Spain.
Mentored Student Presentations:
Graff, T.C., Lee, E., Kaseda, E., Birmingham, W.C., Wadsworth, L.L., Hung, M. (April 2017). The relationship between work social support and ambulatory blood pressure. Poster presented at the Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Research Conference, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
Lee, E., Lee, C., Birmingham, W.C., Wadsworth, L.L. (April 2017). He thinks, she thinks: Differences between self and spousal perceptions of positivity and negativity. Poster presented at the Mary Lou Fulton Mentored Research Conference, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
At this point, only preliminary analysis has been conducted. When the data collection has been completed and the full dataset is available, we will conduct more in-depth analysis. We have looked at our analysis in two ways.
First, we looked at the relationship of the married working couples. Marriage has been associated with better health outcomes although quality of the marriage matters. Relationships which contain both high levels of positivity and high levels of negativity (ambivalence) may not be as protective as more positive relationships. However, measures of supportiveness or ambivalence generally only examine an individual’s perception of the partner’s behavior, ignoring one’s own behavior. The current study aims to elucidate physiological pathways by which one’s own supportive (high positivity) or ambivalent (high positivity and high negativity) behavior toward one’s spouse may influence long-term health via daily ambulatory blood pressure (ABP), an independent predictor of cardiovascular (CV) health.
We found that a participant’s own ambivalent behavior toward their spouse was significantly associated with increased systolic blood pressure and increased diastolic blood pressure. Additionally, feeling mixed and conflicted about one’s own ambivalent behavior toward the spouse was associated with increased DBP. Despite the positive behaviors they report in their own behavior toward their spouse, ambivalent participants’ negative behavior may be creating stress through such processes as cognitive dissonance as they treat someone whom they love poorly. Individuals who behave ambivalently in their interactions with their spouse may be at increased risk for poor CV health. Interventions aimed to decrease negativity in one’s own behavior may provide CV protection.
Secondly, we conducted preliminary analysis of the participants separately, particularly looking at levels of work social support. Research has clearly and consistently linked socially supportive relationships to better overall health, including reduced blood pressure, a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Individuals spend a large percentage of their day at work. A supportive work environment, including employees’ perceptions that they are valued by the organization (organizational support) and can expect support and aid from supervisors and coworkers (individual work-place social support), is associated with reduced stress, improved work-related communication and increased productivity. Less is known about specific health benefits associated with work-place support, specifically as it relates to cardiovascular-risk-reducing indicators such as blood pressure.
We found that perceptions of greater levels of supervisor support was associated with decreased systolic blood pressure, and support from coworkers was associated with both decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure. No association was found for organizational support and ABP indicating that supportive co-workers and supervisors rather than the perception of the organization’s concern for the worker’s well-being may be more effective in reducing daily blood pressure and risk for cardiovascular disease. Interventions to increase work-place support in terms of co-workers and supervisors could provide cardiovascular protection to workers.
The following chart shows how the budget was spent for the MEG grant. A full spreadsheet with complete detail is available.