Personal concepts of stability in the second half of life

N Steverink, N Stevens, F Dittmann-Kohli

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The study contributes to the conceptualization of stability in the development of later life by answering four questions: Are there certain concepts of no-change in the population of aging adults? What are the issues that people combine with the idea of no-change? Are the issues of different importance for different groups? What kind of time perspective is expressed in their expectations of no-change? Stability expectations were investigated within a representative sample of about 2934 Germans aged 40-85 who live independently in the community. By means of a sentence completion instrument subjects provided spontaneous statements about self and life conceptions. Content analysis indicated clearly two different concepts of stability among the respondents in the second half of life: One concerns the continuation of gains, the other the maintenance of the status quo. One third of the expectations deals with further gains. Two thirds of the statements, however, refers to the maintenance of the status quo. Expected maintenance of the status quo showed a strong association with older age. In terms of Raynor's [Raynor, J. O. (1982). A theory of personal functioning and change. In J. O. Raynor & E. Entin (Eds.), Motivation, career striving and aging (pp. 249-302). Washington: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation] theory of the time-bound sense of self, the concept 'continuation of gains' reflects a future sense of self, while the concept 'maintenance of the status quo' refers to a more present sense of self. (C) 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-443
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Aging Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov-2003


  • concepts
  • stability
  • life

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