Exploring Lifespan Development Third Edition  Laura E. Berk
Chapter 18
Emotional and Social
Development in Late Adulthood
Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Exploring Lifespan Development Third Edition  Laura E. Berk
Psychology 238
Development Through the
Chapter 18
Emotional and Social
Development in Late Adulthood
Copyright © 2014, 2011, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Erikson’s Stage for Late
 Ego Integrity vs. Despair
 “Adults who arrive at a sense of Ego Integrity feel whole,
complete, and satisfied with their achievements. They
have adapted to the mix of triumphs and
disappointments that are an inevitable part of love
relationships child rearing, work, and community
involvement” (592).
 Despair occurs when “elders feel they have made many
wrong decisions, yet time is too short to find an alternate
route to integrity” (593). This sense of despair can
include bitterness, anger, defeat, hopelessness and
contempt for others.
Peck’s Theory: Three Tasks
of Ego Integrity
 The conflict of Ego Integrity vs. Despair includes
these three components:
 Ego differentiation vs. work-role preoccupation:
Finding ways to affirm self-worth outside the work
 Body transcendence vs. body preoccupation:
Focusing on cognitive and social powers in order to
“transcend” physical limitations.
 Ego transcendence vs. ego preoccupation: Accepting
that life is finite by finding ways to contribute to the
welfare of future generations.
Labouvie-Vief’s Theory:
Emotional Expertise
 In early adulthood, thinking becomes more
 In late adulthood, emotional abilities expand
promoting more effective coping and reflection.
 Older adults may describe emotions in more
complex and personalized ways, and be better
able to interpret negative events in a positive
Reminiscence and Life
 Reminiscence: “Telling stories about people and events
from the past and reporting associated thoughts and
feelings” (594).
 Life Review: Occurs when a person “calls up, reflects
on, and reconsiders past experiences, contemplating
their meaning with the goal of achieving greater selfunderstanding.” (594).
 Research suggests that reflecting on the past is positive
for psychological well-being and that adults who engage
in a life review are more likely to develop a sense of ego
integrity (Butler, 1968).
Stability and Change in SelfConcept and Personality
 The “Big Five” personality traits remain stable
throughout life.
 The self-concept is more secure and complex in late
 Three shifts in personality take place in late adulthood:
 Agreeableness-generosity, acquiescence and good
naturedness increase in late adulthood
 Sociability declines slightly
 Acceptance of change increases
 Participation in religious activities remains fairly
stable throughout adulthood, but may become more
meaningful for older adults.
Individual Differences in
Psychological Well-Being
 Control vs. Dependency: Older adults are more likely to
receive attention for dependent vs. independent actions –
(these are known as the “dependency-support script” and the
“independence-ignore script.”
 Health: a powerful predictor of psychological well-being in
late adulthood.
 Negative Life Changes: Older adults are likely to experience
more negative life changes than their younger cohorts –
though older adults seem better able to deal with them.
 Social Support and Social Interaction: continue to play a
powerful role in reducing stress, thereby promoting physical
health and psychological well-being.
Social Theories of Aging
 Disengagement Theory: Elders “disengage” from society as
society “frees them” of responsibilities.
 Activity Theory: Suggests elders interact less with society
because of social barriers to engagement rather than desire.
 Socioemotional Selectivity Theory: Suggests that with age,
the function of social interaction changes.
 Younger adults are more likely to value gather information
and receiving self-affirmation in relationships
 Older adults value emotion-regulating function of
Elder Suicide
 People 75 and older have the highest suicide rate.
 Elder men are more likely than women to commit suicide, and
elderly white Americans are more likely to commit suicide than
ethnic minorities.
 More elderly vs. younger adults complete suicide. The ratio of
attempts to completions for younger adults is 300 to 1; for older
adults it is 4 to 1.
 Losses of all types and chronic or terminal illness involving severe
physical pain are risk factors for suicide, particularly for men or
socially isolated individuals.
 Warning signs for elder suicide are similar to those of earlier stages
of life and include putting personal affairs in order, dependency,
statements about dying, indirect self-destructive acts and sleep and
appetite changes.
The Social Contexts of Aging
 Half of American ethnic minorities live in inner cities; 1/3 of
Caucasian Americans do.
 Most senior citizens live in suburbs and suburban elders have
higher incomes, better health and easier access to social services
than inner city elders. However, inner city elders are more likely
than small town and rural elders to have these same advantages.
 Fear of crime may restrict the activities and undermine the morale of
adults living in inner cities. Although older adults are less frequently
the victim of violent crime, they are more likely to be the victim of
purse snatchers or pickpockets.
 88% of older adults in Western industrialized nations stay in their
own homes and neighborhoods where they spent their adult lives.
Relationships in Late
Adulthood I
 Social Convoy model: represents social network; people closest to
you travel closest; the shifts over time and breaks down for some.
 Marriage: 1 in every 5 US marriages will survive for 50 years.
Marital satisfaction increases from middle to late adulthood, when it
is at its peak.
 Divorce and Remarriage: Only about 1% of adults in late
adulthood divorce, although the rate of divorce for people over 65
has increased in recent generations.
 Widowhood: Widows (male and female) make up 33% of the US
elderly population. 50% of women and 15% men over 65 are
 Never-Married, Childless Older Adults: 5% of older Americans
remain unmarried and childless throughout their lives.
Relationships in Late
Adulthood II
 Siblings: Nearly 80% of US people over 60 have at least one living
sibling, most living within 100 miles of each other and having
frequent contact.
 Friendships: Having friends is an especially strong predictor of
mental health for the elderly and friendships may be more rewarding
than family relationships.
 Functions: intimacy and companionship, acceptance (particularly for
elderly women), links to the larger community, and protection from
psychological consequences of loss.
 Characteristics
 Relationships with adult children: 80% of ever-married adults in
the US have living children.
 Relationships with adult grand children and greatgrandchildren: In developed nations, a little over 50% of people
over 65 have a grandchild who is at least 18.
Elder Maltreatment
 About 1.5 million Americans over 65 are mistreated by people
closest to them every year.
 Four Types:
 Physical Abuse
 Physical Neglect(3rd most common)
 Psychological Abuse (2nd most common)
 Financial Abuse (most common form).
 Risk Factors:
 Dependency of the Victim
 Dependency of the Perpetrator
 Psychological Disturbance and Stress of the Perpetrator
 History of Family Violence
 Institutional Conditions
 Preventing Elder Maltreatment
Retirement and Leisure
 The decision to retire
 Affordability is usually the first consideration
 Good health, a close relationship between work life and selfesteem and a pleasant work environment predict persistence at
a job.
 Women retire earlier than men, with the exception of women in
 Adjustment to retirement
 For most people, retirement does not affect mental health.
 Physical limitation are likely to lead to retirement (rather than the
 Leisure activities: Involvement is positively related to psychological
Factors Predicting Successful
 “Relief” from a high stress or unsatisfying job (not
missing the work environment!)
 Especially for women, a continuous work life with
consistency between expectations and actual
 Control over the retirement decision
 The ability to give up the social contacts and predictable
schedule of the work environment
 High quality social support
 A high number of leisure activities with a spouse
Successful Aging
 Important components of successful aging (see
list, page 619).
 Successful aging is facilitated by societal
contexts such as adequate health care, housing
and social services.
 In the US, the federal government guarantees
citizens 60 and over access to a wide variety of
services, although not all eligible individuals are
able to take advantage of these services.
 development of new faith capacities
 openness to other religious perspectives
 enlarged vision of common good

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