Adjustment to Retirement:The Moderating Role of Attachment DiklaSegel, Peter Bamberger
Introduction: Adjustment to Retirement • Retirement has become a long and meaningful phase in the older adult’s life (e.g: Wiatrowski, 2001). • Encompasses many changes in lifestyle and requires adjustment • Inconsistencies regarding the effect of retirement on well-being (positive effects, negative effects or no effects) and the factors shaping the adjustment process (Wang, 2007).
Existing Research and Research Gaps • Research mainly focused on social attributes as predictors of adjustment (wealth, marital status, previous employment). • Psychological variables and personality attributes have been relatively neglected (Wang & Shultz, 2009). • Personality attributes may affect how the retirement transition is framed and thus condition the effects of changes experienced
This research: • Aims: To reconcile research inconsistencies and fill research gaps by: • Identifying boundary conditions • Using a psychological framework – attachment theory • Attachment will condition the effects of changes experienced in retirement (focusing on changes in financial situation and social involvement) on well-being • Longitudinal research design
Attachment Theory as a Key Personality Attribute • Attachment is an innate behavioral system that functions to protect from danger by proximity seeking behaviors. • It is shaped at infancy as a result of early interactions with the caregiver. • Shapes later development of other personal attributes, shapes expectation and behaviors in personal relations, coping and adjustment capabilities. • Two orthogonal dimensions underlie attachment style: avoidance and anxiety.
Attachment Style Attachment avoidance –deactivation strategy Attachment anxiety – hyperactivation strategy Uncomfortable with dependence and closeness to others Emotionally distant and self reliant Suppress distress Avoid support seeking Desire very close relations and seek proximity Depend on others for feelings of confidence and self-worth Make catastrophic evaluations of situation Dwell on negative emotions
Attachment Style Attachment avoidance – deactivation strategy Attachment anxiety - hyperactivation strategy Uncomfortable with dependence and closeness to others Emotionally distant and self reliant Suppress distress Avoid support seeking Exposed to maladjustment Desire very close relations and seek proximity Depend on others for feelings of confidence and self-worth Make catastrophic evaluations of situation Dwell on negative emotions Exposed to maladjustment
Attachment Security: when attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance are low • Comfortable in close relationships • Efficient in mobilizing and using social support • Appraise situations in a benign way • Sense of self-worth and high levels of self-esteem • Perceive distress and manageable • Relatively resilient to stressors • Attachment security considered a valuable personal resource while attachment insecurities (avoidance and anxiety) are a burden.
Financial Situation in Retirement and Well-being • Inconsistencies in research: some report no relation between financial situation or financial changes and well-being in retirement (e.g: Zimmerman, 2005); others do (Cummins, 2000). • The moderating role of attachment: Attachment insecurity places the individual at a disadvantage when dealing with decline in income:
Anxiety Avoidance • Income decline in retirement is (almost) inevitable and hence harms the ability to exert control and may lead to dependence. Thus, it may cause elevated distress. • Make catastrophic appraisals of situations. May perceive income decline as an acute threat and respond with elevated distress.
H1: Attachment avoidance will moderate the relations between income decline and well-being, such that high levels of attachment avoidance will amplify the relation between income decline and well-being. H2: Attachment anxiety will moderate the relations between income decline and well-being, such that high levels of attachment avoidance will amplify the relation between income decline and well-being.
Involvement Changes and Attachment • The transition to retirement may allow the elderly to give priority to desired activities. • The ability to benefit from social involvement may be dependent on attachment style • Attachment security allows one to develop adequate social skills and social self efficacy. It allows exploration of opportunities. • The securely attached may be more able to benefit from new social roles and interactions.
Anxiety Avoidance may promote a perception of social interaction as unimportant and uninteresting may promote hyper-vigilance to rejection cues and perception of social interactions as negative
H3. Attachment anxiety will moderate the relation between increase in social involvement and well-being, such that high levels of attachment anxiety will weaken the relation between increased social involvement and well-being. H4: Attachment avoidance will moderate the relation between increase in social involvement and well-being, such that high levels of attachment avoidance will weaken the relation between increased social involvement and well-being.
Method • Time 3 (2010) • 251 respondent • Mean age 65 • T1 (2003):560 blue collar American workers • Mean age 58 • Time 2 (2008) • 276 had retired Attachment: (T3) Changes in household income: T1-T2 • Well-being (T3): • Depression • Psychosomatic complaints • Health Changes in involvement: T2-T1
Measurements • Involvement: 5 forms of activities: family, religious org’, educational and cultural org’, charity & community, sports & recreation. • Attachment: Experience in Close Relationship Scale (Brennan, Clark & Shaver, 1998). • Well-being: • Depression: CESD (Radloff, 1977) • Psychosomatic complaints (Caplan,1975) • Health: Number of diagnosed illnesses (National Institute on Aging) • Analytical Procedure: linear regressions for depression and somatic complaints. Poisson regression for health.
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Discussion and Conclusions • The effects of changes experienced in retirement on well-being are conditioned by individuals’ attachment. • Attachment anxiety and avoidance are boundary conditions for the effects of changes in income and involvement on well-being • Income drop has negative effect on well-being only when attachment avoidance is high. • Involvement contributes to well-being when attachment is relatively secure.
Income and Avoidance • Decline in income may be perceived as uncontrollable and inevitable, thus destructive to those who are most reluctant to lose control and fear of dependence. • Avoidant individuals tendency to suppress emotions and avoid coping with their distress may be especially ineffective and extremely resource demanding in the long run dealing with chronic stress. • Alternative: Severe income decline may promote social withdrawal and aggravate avoidance tendencies. • Attachment anxiety has no effect, perhaps due to the long time gaps.
Involvement and Attachment • Increased social involvement decreases depression when anxiety is low or average. • Increased social involvement when attachment anxiety is high results in elevated levels of psychosomatic complaints. • High levels of anxiety are related to worries about rejection and abandonment. • It poses individuals at risk for experiencing distress caused by social interactions and hinders the ability to benefit from it. • Avoidant individuals are not as sensitive to social activities, more prone to experience physiological reactivity as a response to stress. Hence physical health is more adversely affected when avoidance is high, but not when anxiety is high.
Practical Implications and Limitations • Help map populations in risk for experiencing difficulties in the adjustment process(those who may not benefit from involvement and may be distressed by income decline) • Limitations and future research: • Results may be similar for other losses and gains experienced in older adulthood. We only accounted for 2 independent variables. • Other boundary conditions for adaptation to retirement. • Additional measurements to account for both the short and long term effects.
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