What happens to our brain as we age? ?What is dementia? ?Is it a necessary part of the aging process? Is Alzheimer Disease typical of late adulthood? In addition


What happens to our brain as we age?  What is dementia?  Is it a necessary part of the aging process? Is Alzheimer Disease typical of late adulthood?

In addition to your textbook, view the YouTube videos below in order to respond to the questions above.


John W. Santrock

© 2021 McGraw Hill. All rights reserved. Authorized only for instructor use in the classroom. No reproduction or further distribution permitted without the prior written consent of McGraw Hill.

Chapter 19

Socioemotional Development in Late Adulthood

© 2021 McGraw Hill. All rights reserved. Authorized only for instructor use in the classroom. No reproduction or further distribution permitted without the prior written consent of McGraw Hill.

Chapter Outline

Theories of Socioemotional Development.

Personality, the Self, and Society.

Families and Social Relationships.

Ethnicity, Gender, and Culture.

Successful Aging.

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Theories of Socioemotional Development: Topics

Erikson’s theory.

Activity theory.

Socioemotional selectivity theory.

Selective optimization with compensation theory.

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Erikson’s Theory 1

Integrity versus despair involves reflecting on the past and either piecing together a positive review or concluding that one’s life has not been well spent.

Life review: a looking back at one’s life experiences, evaluating them, and interpreting/reinterpreting them.

Reminiscence therapy: a therapy in which someone discusses past activities and experiences with another individual or group.

PeopleImages/DigitalVision/Getty Images

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Erikson’s Theory 2

Conflict and Resolution Culmination in Old Age
Old age—Integrity versus despair: wisdom Existential identity; a sense of integrity strong enough to withstand physical disintegration.
Middle adulthood—Generativity versus stagnation: care Caring for others, and empathy and concern.
Early adulthood—Intimacy versus isolation: love Sense of complexity of relationships; value of tenderness and loving freely.
Adolescence—Identity versus confusion: fidelity Sense of complexity of life; merger of sensory, logical, and aesthetic perception.
School age—Industry versus inferiority: competence Humility; acceptance of the course of one’s life and unfulfilled hopes.
Early childhood—Initiative versus guilt: purpose Humor; empathy; resilience.
Toddlerhood—Autonomy versus shame: will Acceptance of the cycle of life, from integration to disintegration.
Infancy—Basic trust versus mistrust: hope Appreciation of interdependence and relatedness.


In Erikson’s view, each stage of life is associated with a particular psychosocial conflict and a particular resolution. In this chart, Erikson describes how the issue from each of the earlier stages can mature into the many facets of integrity and wisdom in old age.

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Activity Theory

Activity theory: the theory that the more active and involved older adults are, the more likely they are to be satisfied with their lives.

Suggests that many individuals will achieve greater life satisfaction if they continue their middle-adulthood roles into late adulthood.

If these are stripped from them, it is important to find substitute roles that keep them active and involved.

Chuck Savage/Getty Images

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Socioemotional Selectivity Theory 1

Socioemotional selectivity theory: motivation changes as a function of time horizons.

When horizons are limited, there is a shift toward prioritizing emotional meaning and satisfaction.

Older adults become more selective about their social networks.

Spend more time with individuals with whom they have had rewarding relationships.

Two important classes of goals individuals are motivated to achieve are knowledge-related and emotional.

The trajectory for each type of goal is different, as it involves the perception of time.

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Socioemotional Selectivity Theory 2


In Carstensen’s theory of socioemotional selectivity, the motivation to reach knowledge-related and emotion-related goals changes across the life span.

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Selective Optimization with Compensation Theory 1

Selective optimization with compensation theory: successful aging is related to three main factors: selection, optimization, and compensation.

Selection: older adults have reduced capacity and loss of functioning, requiring a reduction in performance in most of life domains.

Optimization: suggests that older adults can maintain performance in some areas through continued practice and use of new technologies.

Compensation: becomes relevant when life tasks require a level of capacity beyond the current level of the older adult’s performance potential.

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Selective Optimization with Compensation Theory 2


Shown here are the top four domains of personal life investment at different points in life. The highest degree of investment is listed at the top (for example, work was the highest personal investment from 25 to 34 years of age, family from 35 to 84, and health from 85 to 105).

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(Left to right) Diane Macdonald/Eyewire/Getty Images; Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images; Purestock/SuperStock; Hoby Finn/Photodisc/Getty Images; PointImages/iStock/Getty Images

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Personality, the Self, and Society: Topics


The self and society.

Older adults in society.

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Conscientiousness predicts a lower mortality risk from childhood through late adulthood.

High neuroticism is linked to negative emotions and appears to predict higher frailty.

Higher conscientiousness is linked to a longer life and reduced risk of developing Alzheimer disease.

A higher level of agreeableness and lower level of neuroticism is linked with lowered likelihood of developing dementia.

Higher levels of conscientiousness, openness to experience, agreeableness, and extraversion are linked to positive emotions.

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The Self and the Society 1


Based on a large cross-sectional study, self-esteem tends to decline significantly in the seventies and eighties.

Being widowed, institutionalized, or physically impaired.

Having a low religious commitment.

Declining health.

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The Self and the Society 2


One cross-sectional study found that self-esteem was high in childhood, dropped in adolescence, increased through early and middle adulthood, then dropped in the seventies and eighties (Robins & others, 2002). More than 300,000 individuals were asked to rate the extent to which they have high self-esteem on a five-point scale, with 5 being “Strongly Agree” and 1 being “Strongly Disagree.”

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The Self and the Society 3


Most older adults still effectively maintain a sense of self-control.

Self-control plays an important role in older adults’ engagement in healthy activities.

A study of 65- to 92-year-olds found self-control was linked to better outcomes for well-being and depression following a 6-week yoga program.

Another revealed self-control was a key factor in older adults’ physical activity levels.

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Other Adults in Society 1

Stereotyping older adults:

Ageism: a prejudice against others because of their age.

Most frequent form is disrespect, followed by assumptions about ailments or frailty.

Policy issues in an aging society:

Health care: The increasing proportion of older adults in the population contributes to escalating health-care costs.

While many older adults have chronic rather than acute problems, the system is still based on a “cure” model.

Because care is often more home-based, a new type of cooperative care needs to be developed.

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Other Adults in Society 2

Generational inequity: Some are concerned that older adults receive an inequitably large allocation of the society’s resources, a view called generational inequity.

This inequity may contribute to intergenerational conflict and raises questions about whether the young should be have to pay for the old.

The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that healthy younger adults get health insurance or pay a penalty added to this concern.

Income: Poverty is linked to an increase in physical and mental health problems.

Women and ethnic minorities have much higher rates of poverty.

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Other Adults in Society 3

Technology: The Internet plays an increasingly important role in providing access to information and communication.

Still, older adults are less likely to have a computer.

Increasing numbers do use e-mail, smartphones, and social media.

Television use continues to be high, raising concerns about the amount of sedentary behavior.

Image Source/Getty Images

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Families and Social Relationships: Topics

Lifestyle diversity.


Older adult parents and their adult children.



Social support and social integration.

Altruism and volunteering.

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Lifestyle Diversity 1

Married older adults:

In 2017, nearly 58 percent of U.S. adults over 65 years were married—with a significant gender difference, however: more men than women were still married.

Marital satisfaction is greater in older adults.

Retirement alters a couple’s lifestyle.

Older adults who are married or partnered are usually happier and live longer than those who are single.

Married L G B T individuals 50 years and over report better quality of life and more economic and social resources than unmarried partnered counterparts.

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Lifestyle Diversity 2

Divorced and separated older adults:

An increasing number of older adults are divorced—in many cases divorced or separated before entering late adulthood.

The majority of divorced older adults are women.

Men are more likely than women to remarry.

Divorce has social, financial, and physical consequences.

Remarriage is increasing due to:

Rising divorce rates;

Increased longevity; and

Better health.

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Lifestyle Diversity 3

Cohabiting older adults:

The number of cohabiting adults 50 years and older has been rising rapidly in recent years and is expected to increase further.

In many cases, older adult couples cohabit more for companionship than for love.

Others may cohabit rather than marry in order to maintain assets separately.

Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

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Older adults have fewer attachment relationships than younger adults.

With increasing age, attachment anxiety decreases.

In late adulthood, attachment security is associated with greater psychological and physical well-being than attachment anxiety.

Insecure attachment is linked to more perceived negative caregiver burden in caring for patients with Alzheimer disease.

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Older Adult Parents and Their Adult Children

Eighty percent of older adults have living children, many of whom are middle-aged.

Adult daughters are more likely to be involved in the lives of aging parents.

Adult children often coordinate and monitor services for aging, disabled parents.

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Four-generation families have become common.

One contribution of great-grandparents is to transmit family history—where the family came from, what their members achieved, what they endured, and how their lives changed.

Young adults interact with their grandparents more than great-grandparents.

Courtesy of Dr. John Santrock

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Friendship 1

In late adulthood, new friendships less likely to be forged but close friendships are maintained.

Some older adults do seek out new friendships, especially following the death of a spouse.

Friendships are less problematic and negative than in younger years.

Research suggests close ties with friends can contribute to increased longevity and to better marital quality for both wives and husbands.

As people grow older, they chose close friends over new friends and are content as long as they have several close people in their network.

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Friendship 2


The happiness scale ranged from 0 to 6, with participants rating how intensely they experienced happiness (0 = not at all, 6 = extremely intense). Older adults’ mean age was 71; younger adults’ mean age was 23.

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Social Support and Social Integration 1

Social support:

Convoy model of social relations: when individuals go through life embedded in a personal network of individuals to whom they give and from whom they receive social support.

Social support is related to their physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.

Terry Vine/Blend Images/Getty Images

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Social Support and Social Integration 2

Social integration:

Social integration is the extent to which individuals are involved in social exchanges with others.

Older adults with higher levels of social integration tend to be less depressed, engage in more physical activity, and have a more positive mood.

Older adults tend to report being less lonely than younger adults, and less lonely than would be expected based on their circumstances.

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Altruism and Volunteering

Older adults are more likely to behave in altruistic ways and value contributions to the public good.

They are more likely than any other age group to volunteer more than 100 hours annually.

Volunteering is associated with better health and better cognitive functioning.

Among the reasons are its provision of constructive activities and productive roles, social integration, and enhanced meaningfulness.

Research suggests a significant link between volunteering and increased longevity.

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Ethnicity, Gender, and Culture: Topics




© McGraw Hill



Elderly ethnic minority individuals face both ageism and racism.

African Americans and Latinos are overrepresented in poverty statistics.

They are more likely to become ill, but less likely to receive treatment.

Although their earnings contribute, many never reach the eligible age for Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Despite stress and discrimination, many ethnic minority individuals develop coping mechanisms for survival.

Extended family networks.


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Some developmentalists conclude that femininity decreases in women and masculinity decreases in men when they reach late adulthood.

The evidence suggests older men may become more feminine (that is, nurturing or sensitive), but women do not necessarily become more masculine (that is, assertive or dominant).

It is important to consider cohort effects.

A possible double jeopardy is faced by many women—the burden of both ageism and sexism.

“Triple jeopardy”: female ethnic minority older adults face three levels of discrimination—ageism, sexism, and racism.

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Culture 1

In most cultures, three factors are important in living the “good life” as an older adult:


Security; and


Alison Wright/Getty Images

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Culture 2

Older adults are more likely to be accorded a position of high status in a culture when:

Older persons have valuable knowledge.

Older persons control key family/community resources.

Older persons are permitted to engage in useful/valued functions as long as possible.

There is role continuity throughout the life span.

Age-related role changes that give greater responsibility, authority, and advisory capacity.

The extended family is common.

Respect for older adults is often greater in collectivistic cultures.

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Successful Aging 1

Successful aging characterizes individuals whose physical, cognitive, and socioemotional development is maintained longer and declines later.

Many abilities can be maintained and/or improved in older adults, especially when they have the following:

Proper diet.

Active lifestyle.

Mental stimulation and flexibility.

Positive coping skills.

Good social relationships and support.

Absence of disease.

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Successful Aging 2

Being active and socially engaged are especially important.

Successful aging also involved perceived control over the environment.

Self-efficacy also includes confidence in one’s ability to produce positive outcomes.

Older adults are a growing resource in our society: citizens who have deep expertise, emotional balance, and the motivation to make a difference.

Alex Wong/Staff/Getty Images

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End of Main Content

© 2021 McGraw Hill. All rights reserved. Authorized only for instructor use in the classroom. No reproduction or further distribution permitted without the prior written consent of McGraw Hill.

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Accessibility Content: Text Alternatives for Images

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Socioemotional Selectivity Theory 2 – Text Alternative

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Infants value the pursuit of emotional satisfaction, which drops in importance through adolescence and young adulthood, and increases in importance as we approach middle age and beyond. Infants do not value the pursuit of knowledge, which increases through adolescence and young adulthood, and begins to decline as we approach middle age and beyond. The switch in importance takes place in infancy and then again in middle age.

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Selective Optimization with Compensation Theory 2 – Text Alternative

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Those 25 to 34 years old have the highest degree of investment in work, then friends, family, and lastly independence. Those 35 to 54 years old have the highest degree of investment in family, then work, friends, and lastly cognitive fitness. Those 55 to 65 years old have the highest degree of investment in family, then health, friends, and cognitive fitness. Those 70 to 84 years old have the highest degree of investment in family, then health, cognitive fitness, and lastly friends. Those 85 to 105 years old have the highest degree of investment in health, then family, thinking about life, and lastly cognitive fitness.

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Friendship 2 – Text Alternative

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