First Advisor

Cynthia D. Mohr

Date of Publication

Winter 2-11-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Psychology






Gratitude -- Psychological aspects, Touch -- Psychological aspects, Affect (Psychology), Well-being, Nurses, Families of military personnel



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 231 pages)


Social connection is important to one's health and longevity. However, not only do people need others to survive, we need others to thrive. Researchers call for deeper examination of the functions and processes through which our social partners help us to prosper and thrive, such as through increased physical health and well-being. Over three studies, I examined phenomena theorized to contribute to long-term thriving including positive emotions (i.e., gratitude and positive affect fluctuation), responsive support, affectionate touch, and physical health (i.e., sleep) within the context of nursing work (Study 1) and military relationships (Study 2 & 3). Study 1 provides support for the benefits of received gratitude expressions, an understudied component of gratitude interactions. Specifically, nurses receiving more thanks within their work week were associated with feeling more satisfied with their patient care and in turn positive physical health outcomes including higher sleep quality, for example. Thus, not only is feeling grateful important to well-being but receiving thanks from others benefits one's physical health as well. Study 2 extended research describing the impact of the dynamic and fluctuating nature of emotion and physical health to close relationships by examining how positive affect variability (intra-individual standard deviation) and instability (differences between each successive day's mood) promotes or hinders intimacy. The second study found that greater fluctuations in positive affect over time were associated with greater reports of closeness within military couples. Recent research indicates that variability in positive and negative mood contributes to reduced psychological and physical well-being; however, when applied to the study of close relationships, Study 2 suggests that variation in positive mood may instead benefit military couples. Finally, Study 3 investigated the degree to which affectionate touch enhances the interrelationships among negative event support, gratitude, and sleep within Veterans and their partners over time. Results offer limited support; however, one key finding indicates that Veteran daily reports of affectionate touch were associated with increased sleep quality for their spouses. In addition, Veteran reports of affectionate touch strengthened the degree to which spouses' perceived responsive support predicted Veteran grateful mood. Study 3 supports research showing that positive interactions with one's partner, such as physical touch and responsive support, contribute to sleep and positive relationship maintenance emotions, such as gratitude. Taken together, these studies offer support for the integral role our social connections play in thriving, particularly within the contexts of nursing and military relationships.


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