Does Michelangelo care about age? An adult life-span perspective on the Michelangelo phenomenon

Bühler, Janina Larissa; Weidmann, Rebekka; Kumashiro, Madoka and Grob, Alexander. 2019. Does Michelangelo care about age? An adult life-span perspective on the Michelangelo phenomenon. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(4), pp. 1392-1412. ISSN 0265-4075 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Humans are motivated to expand their actual self toward an ideal self. Known as the Michelangelo phenomenon, movement toward the ideal self can be facilitated through an affirming romantic partner and is linked to positive life outcomes. Yet, research on the Michelangelo phenomenon has primarily focused on young adult samples, and it remains unknown whether the framework generalizes across the adult life-span. The authors addressed this shortcoming by examining the Michelangelo phenomenon in a three-generation sample of 505 adults aged 18–90 years (M = 47.2 years). Multilevel analyses revealed one age effect on the framework, showing that being seen by the partner in a manner congruent with one’s ideal self (i.e., partner perceptual affirmation) becomes more important for relationship satisfaction with increasing age. Otherwise, age did not affect the Michelangelo phenomenon, suggesting life-span generalizability of the framework. By highlighting personal-growth processes that continue across the life-span, the present findings add to theories of successful aging.

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Michelangelo phenomenon, romantic relationships, theories of aging, life-span

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28 February 2018Accepted
27 March 2018Published Online
1 April 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

16 Apr 2018 09:46

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:45

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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