After the fall of the Berlin Wall: Perceptions and consequences of stability and change among middle-aged and older East and West Germans

Gerben J. Westerhof*, Corey L.M. Keyes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives. This study empirically tested the self-systems theory of subjective change in light of the rapid change after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The theory predicts that individuals have a tendency to perceive stability and that perceived stability exerts a strong positive effect on subjective well-being. We would expect perceptions of decline and, to a lesser extent, perceptions of improvement to be related to lower levels of subjective well-being. Methods. Data were from respondents aged 40-85 years who participated in the German Aging Survey. We used measures of well-being and temporal comparisons during the past 10 years (1986-1996). Results. West Germans reported more stability than East Germans, in particular in the public domain and in older age groups. Compared with perceptions of stability, perceptions of decline were related to less life satisfaction and more negative affect, and perceptions of growth to more negative affect. Temporal comparisons were unrelated to positive affect. Discussion. Our findings both confirm and reject the self-systems theory of subjective change as it relates to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Studying temporal comparisons is important in understanding the effects of historical events and their timing within an individual life course.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S240-S247
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Volume61
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes

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