Age Differences in Exposure and Reactivity to Interpersonal Tensions among Black and White Individuals across Adulthood

The present study examined age differences in exposure and reactivity to interpersonal tensions among white and black Americans.Participants from the National Study of Daily Experiences II (NSDE II, n=1,696 white and n=239 black; ages 34–84) reported their experiences of daily interpersonal tensions and well-being (positive and negativeaffect) over 8days and provided salivary cortisol samples. A total of 40% of respondents reported having an argument and62% reported avoiding an argument. Multilevel models estimated separately for black and white respondents revealed that olderpeople reported fewer interpersonal tensions (i.e., less exposure) than did younger people. However, age differences in reactivityto tensions (e.g., appraisals, coping strategies, implications of tensions for affect and cortisol) varied by race. Althougholder black respondents reported tensions were less stressful than younger black respondents, there were fewer age differencein reactivity to tensions overall among black respondents compared with white respondents. Findings are consistent with theexposure-reactivity model and gerontological theories of emotion regulation but show that the specific age differences varyby race which may indicate unique strengths and vulnerabilities among whites and blacks.