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Chapter 18. Psychosocial Development in Late Adulthood. Stability & Change in Personality Traits Hostile people are unlikely to mellow much with age unless they get help Optimistic people also likely to remain the same. Personality traits that contribute to health and longevity

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chapter 18

Chapter 18

Psychosocial Development in Late Adulthood

Stability & Change in Personality Traits
  • Hostile people are unlikely to mellow much with age unless they get help
  • Optimistic people also likely to remain the same
Personality traits that contribute to health and longevity
  • Personality is strong predictor of emotionality and subjective well-being
  • Negative emotions decrease with age
  • Positive emotions remained stable; possibly because as they age tend to seek activities and people that give them emotional gratification, also ability to regulate emotions- more happy
Personality traits that contribute to health and longevity
  • Two of the Big Five personality traits modify the pattern
  • Extraverted people (outgoing and socially orientated) reported especially high levels of positive emotion and retain positivity throughout life
  • Neurotic personalities (moody, touchy, anxious, restless) tend to report negative emotions and retain this negativity. This is a far more powerful predictor of moods and mood disorders than other factors.

Ego Integrity vs. Despair

  • A state one reaches after having taken care of things and people, products and ideas, and having adapted to the successes and failures of existence. Reflection of one’s life.
  • Once accomplished prior 7 stages, now can perceive their life as having some Order & Meaning within a larger order.
  • Ego integrity- a sense of having integrated the self

Ego Integrity vs. Despair

  • Perceives with dignity their own style of life and defends it from potential threat.
  • Counterpart: despair over the cruel/vicious person life cycle, as well as over social and historical conditions, as well as facing Death.
  • This can aggravate a feeling that life is meaningless, that the end is near, a fear and even a wish for death.

Ego Integrity vs. Despair

  • Time is now too short to turn back.
  • Wisdom: the virtue that develops; informed and detached concern with life itself in the face of death itself.
  • Physical and mental activity slows down
  • Simple wisdom maintains and conveys the integrity of accumulated experiences of previous years.

Ego Integrity vs. Despair

  • The aging person is less adaptable to changing situations does not preclude a certain playfulness and curiosity that permits a closure of experience, as accrued from years of knowledge and experience.
  • Those in the stage of wisdom can represent to younger generations a style of life characterized by a feeling of wholeness and completeness.

Ego Integrity vs. Despair

  • The feeling of wholeness can counteract the feeling of despair and disgust, and the feeling of being finished as present life situations pass by.
  • The sense of wholeness also alleviates the feelings of helplessness and dependence that can mark the very end of life
  • Ritualization of old age may be called Integral: reflected in the wisdom of the ages

Ego Integrity vs. Despair

  • Corresponding ritualism is Sapientism: “ the unwise pretense of being wise”.
  • Genital Stage

******An adult will eventually review their life. A life well spent will result in a sense of well-being and integrity.


Adaptive thinking or behavior aimed at reducing or relieving stress that arises from harmful, threatening, or challenging conditions.

Two approaches to coping:

Valliant- Adaptive Defenses- best psychosocial adjustment: reported highest income, strongest social supports, greatest marital satisfaction, joy in living

  •  Had used these adaptive defenses earlier in adulthood, such as altruism, humor, suppression (keeping a stiff upper lip), anticipation (planning for future), sublimation (redirecting negative emotions into productive pursuits).
  •  May be unconscious or conscious.
Two approaches to coping:

Cognitive-Appraisal Model

  • People consciously choose coping strategies on the basis of the way they perceive and analyze a situation. Coping results- adapting to stress.
Coping strategies: Problem-focused versus emotional focused

Problem-focused coping: involves use of instrumental (action orientated) strategies to eliminate, manage, or improve a stressful condition; usually when sees a realistic chance of changing the situation.

Coping strategies: Problem-focused versus emotional focused

Emotion-focused coping: (palliative coping), directed toward feeling better; managing the emotional response to a stressful situation to relieve its physical or psychological impact; usually use when feels that little or nothing can be done about the situation itself. One strategy is to divert energy away from the problem; another is to give in; another is to deny the problem.

Coping strategies: Problem-focused versus emotional focused

Emotion-focused coping Con’t:

Older adults tend to use emotion-focused coping more than the young. They are more flexible and able to use both problem-focused and emotion-focused strategies, but are better able to effectively manage their emotions.

Two types of emotion-focused coping:

Proactive- confronting or expressing one’s emotions or seeking social support)

Passive- avoidance, denial, suppression.

The young and older tend to use more passive coping.

See Table 18-1 (page 677)

  • Positive link between religion or spirituality and health, marital satisfaction, psychological well-being, physical health
  • Negative association (when religion lacking) with suicide, delinquency, criminality, substance use/abuse
  • Meditation also effective.
Models of Successful Aging

MacArthur Foundation: three main components of successful aging:

  • Avoidance of disease or disease-related disability
  • Maintenance of high physical and cognitive functioning
  • Sustained, active engagement in social and productive activities
Disengagement theory vs. Activity theory

Disengagement theory: aging gradually brings reduction in social involvement and greater preoccupation with the self

Activity theory: the more active older people remain, the better they age.

Continuity theory- need to maintain a connection between past and present; activity important as it represents the continuation of a lifestyle.

Need to be productive and feel needed.

Selective optimization with compensation (soc)
  • Conserve energy and resources by selecting fewer and more meaningful activities to focus on;
  • Optimizing, making most of abilities that remain strong;
  • Compensating- for losses by mobilizing resources in other areas.
Lifestyle & Social Issues
  • Work and retirement
  • Fewer norms related to retirement; return to work or school, change careers
  • May need to work to supplement income or for insurance
  • Usually like their work and find it less stressful
  • Often more productive, dependable, careful, responsible, frugal with resources/time, more effective suggestions
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)protects workers age 40 and older. They found that physical fitness and mental abilities vary increasingly with age and differ among groups than between ages; and tests of specific psychological, physical, perceptual-motor abilities can predict job performance far better than age.
  • Life after retirement is an ongoing process
  • Personal resources, economic resources, social support, help affect retirement
  • Continuity theory suggests that people who maintain their earlier activities and lifestyles adjust more successfully.
Three patterns of continuity theory:
  • Family-focused lifestyle- accessible, low cost activities that revolve around the family, home, companions; conversation, tv, visiting,
  • Balance investment: typical of more educated people, allocated time more equally among family, work, leisure.
  • Serious leisure- dominated by activity that demands skill, attention, commitment- extraordinarily satisfied with their life!
Mistreatment of elderly

Elder abuse: maltreatment or neglect of dependent older persons or violation of their personal rights.

Mistreatment may fall into 6 categories:
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional or psychological abuse
  • Financial or material exploitation
  • Neglect
  • Self-neglect (unable to care for self safely)
  • 90% of perpetrators are family
  • 2/3 are spouses or adult children
Personal relationships
  • Tend to spend less time with others as they age
  • Relationships they do maintain are important to their well-being
Social convoy theory(chapter 16)- maintain social support by identifying members of their social network who can help them and avoiding those who are not supportive

Socio-emotional selectivity theory: older adults choose to spend time with people and activities that meet immediate emotional needs.

Social contact seems to prolong life
  • 53% of Men who are socially isolated die from cardiovascular disease and more than twice as likely to die from accidents or suicide (versus men not isolated).
  • Large social networks and frequent social contacts result in less cognitive decline
Intimate Relationships
  • Marital satisfaction impacts overall health.
  • Being married itself is important for men; women’s health linked to the quality of the marriage
  • Gay and lesbian relationships tend to remain strong- little difference between heterosexual and homosexual relationships
  • Friendships
  • Very important for overall health