The aging self in a cultural context: the relation of conceptions of aging to identity processes and self-esteem in the United States and the Netherlands

Gerben Johan Westerhof, S.K. Whitbourne, G.P. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives. To study the aging self, that is, conceptions of one’s own aging process, in relation to identity processes and self-esteem in the United States and the Netherlands. As the liberal American system has a stronger emphasis on individual responsibility and youthfulness than the social–democratic Dutch system, we expect that youthful and positive perceptions of one’s own aging process are more important in the United States than in the Netherlands. Methods. Three hundred and nineteen American and 235 Dutch persons between 40 and 85 years participated in the study. A single question on age identity and the Personal Experience of Aging Scale measured aspects of the aging self. The Identity and Experiences Scale measured identity processes and Rosenberg’s scale measured self-esteem. Results. A youthful age identity and more positive personal experiences of aging were related to identity processes and self-esteem. These conceptions of one’s own aging process also mediate the relation between identity processes and self-esteem. This mediating effect is stronger in the United States than in the Netherlands. Discussion. As expected, the self-enhancing function of youthful and positive aging perceptions is stronger in the liberal American system than in the social–democratic Dutch welfare system. The aging self should therefore be studied in its cultural context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-60
JournalJournals of gerontology. Series B: Psychological sciences & social sciences
Volume67
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • METIS-294009
  • IR-84092

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