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Sociological Theories of Aging (1)

Sociological Theories of Aging (1)

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Sociological Theories of Aging (1)

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  1. Sociological Theories of Aging (1)

  2. Introduction This chapter presents some answers—theoretical statements that have been placed in two broad categories (1) theories that attempt to conceptualize the adjustment of individuals to their own aging and (2) theories that deal with the relationship between a society’s social system and its older members.

  3. Theorizing in social gerontology (p. 208) • Theorizing in social gerontology has a long way to go. In part, this is the case because theory has become ‘ devalued’ in gerontology. • Also, student and professionals are attracted to gerontology precisely because it provides an opportunity to help people in need, not because it provides an opportunity to develop social theory. • In addition, as Bengtson, Rice, and Johnson [ 1999 ] point out, the postmodernist critique of science as truth as well as the resistance to interdisciplinary investigation in gerontology have also contributed to the devaluing of theory development in gerontology.

  4. Four pragmatic justifications for the usefulness of theory in gerontology (p.209) According to Bengtson, Rice, and Johnson (1999) (1) Integration of knowledge—A good theory summarizes findings from different empirical studies and describes linkages among key constructs (構念). (2) Explanation of knowledge—A useful theory describes in a logically sound way how and why empirically observed phenomena are related.

  5. Four pragmatic justifications for the usefulness of theory in gerontology (p.209) (3) Predictions about what is not yet known or observed—Research based on theory can lead to new discoveries based on principles proposed in earlier theories. (4) Interventions to improve human conditions—Theory is valuable when applied to existing knowledge in order to solve problems or alleviate human suffering. Theory can inform public policy.

  6. Development of Theories on Aging Aging and the individuals Role Theory, Activity theory, Disengagement theory, continuity theory, socioenvironmental theory, Exchange theory, Symbolic Interactionism Aging and Society Subculture of the Aging, Modernization Theory, Age Stratification, Political Economy of Aging, Emergent Theories Critical Gerontology, Feminist Gerontology


  8. ROLE THEORY (p. 209) The earliest attempt in social gerontology to understand the adjustment of the aged individual was placed within a role—theory framework (Cottrell 1942). Generally speaking, research done within this framework was practically oriented. Researchers were concerned with the problems of adjustment due to role changes in later life.

  9. Two changes categories in aging process (1) The relinquishment of social relationships and roles typical of adulthood and (2) Their replacement by retirement and the acceptance of social relationships typical of the later years, such as dependency on offspring [ Cavan et al 1949 ]

  10. The special dilemma of role change (p. 209) The special dilemma of role change for older people is that they are more likely to lose roles than to acquire new ones. Further, these losses, such as the loss of the worker role with retirement, are largely irreversible and may lead to erosion of social identity and decline in self—esteem. (Rosow 1985) .

  11. Phillips study under the role theory framework(p. 210) • In his study of almost 1000 individuals age 60 and over, he found significantly more maladjustment to old age in the retired when compared with the employed. Maladjustment is measured by self. • Another important variable used by Phillips is labeled identification as old. This item, a measure of self—image, simply asks, ‘How do you think of yourself as far as age goes—middle—aged, elderly, old ? • Individuals, who perceive themselves as elderly of old are significantly more maladjusted than are those who perceive themselves as middle—aged.

  12. Sex-role differentiation and life satisfaction(p.210) • Sinnott [1977], after reviewing many studies on middle and old age, came to the conclusion that survival and satisfaction in old age often accompany flexibility in sex roles. • Reichard, Livson, and Petersonv [1962] studied how 87 men between the ages of 55 and 84 adjusted to aging. The best adjusted exhibited personalities not dominated by male traits. The researchers concluded that growing old may make it possible for a man to integrate formerly unacceptable feminine traits [ e. g. nurturance or passivity ] into his personality. Their data show that those best able to make the integration are rewarded by a more successful old age.

  13. Sex-role differentiation and life satisfaction(p. 210) • Neugarten, Crotty, and Tobin [1964] found older men and women who were the most satisfied with life to be those who had best achieved an integration of straits culturally defined as masculine with traits culturally defined as feminine. • While studying the structure of self—concept, Monge [1975] found certain continuity as well as discontinuities across the life cycle. Monge’s results suggest that as men and women become older, they become more androgynous(雌雄同體)—that is, more alike and perhaps more accepting of traits of the opposite sex in themselves.

  14. ACTIVITY THEORY(P. 212) • often called the implicit theory of aging(內含的老化理論), • states that aging brings individual ‘ unadjustment’. • Through activity, however, readjustment and life satisfaction can be achieved. • The theory holds that, although aging individuals face inevitable changes related to physiology, anatomy, and health status, their psychological and social needs remain essentially the same.

  15. ACTIVITY THEORY(P. 212) • The social world may withdraw from older people, making it more difficult for them to fulfill these needs. • The person who ages optimally is the one who stays active and manages to resist the withdrawal of the social world. • The individual who is able to maintain the activities of the middle years for as long as possible will be well adjusted and satisfied with life in the later years.

  16. Social activities and life satisfaction(p.212) Lemon, Bengtson, and Peterson [1972] attempted a formal and explicit test of the activity theory. Using a sample of 411 potential in—movers to a southern California retirement community. They distinguishing among informal activity (with friends, relatives, and neighbors), formal activity (participation in voluntary organizations), and solitary(獨自的) activity (maintenance of household). They found that only social activity with friends was significantly related to life satisfaction.

  17. Social activities and life satisfaction(p.212) • Knapp’s (1977) study of 51 elderly people residing in the south of England lends support to these findings. • Within this sample, there was a strong positive relationship between’ the number of hours spent in a typical week with friends and relatives [ informal activity ]’ and life satisfaction. • Several measures of formal activity were also found to be strongly related to life satisfaction.

  18. Theoretical problems in the activity approach (p.213) First problem the activity perspective assumes that individuals have a great deal of control over their social situations. It assumes that people have the capacity to construct—or, more appropriately, reconstruct—their lives by substituting new roles and activities for lost ones.

  19. Clearly, this may be the case for the upper—middle—class individual whose locus of control has always been internal and whose social and economic resources allow for such reconstruction. In this regard, the theory may be more about the relationships among socioeconomic status, life—style, health, and psychological well—being than about the relationship between activity and life satisfaction.

  20. Theoretical problems in the activity approach (p. 213) Second problem the activity perspective emphasizes the stability of psychological and social needs through the adult phases of the life cycle. But what about the person whose environment changes at a particular age—for example, when he or she retires, is deprived of status, or is widowed? Might this individual’s social and psychological needs change in the face of the substantial change in environment? Third problem an important problem in activity theory is the expectation that activities of any kind can substitute for lost involvement in work, marriage, and parenting.

  21. DISENGAGEMENT THEORY(p. 214) Put forth by Cumming and Henry(1961), stands in contrast to role theory and activity theory. Disengagement theory represents a transformation or new way of thinking about aging that shifted the focus away from the individual to the social system as the source of explanation (Lynott AND Lynott 1996). Cumming and Henry asked, ‘ How does this affect the needs of social system functioning?’

  22. Main postulates of disengagement theory(p. 214) (1) the aging individual accepts—perhaps even desires—the decrease inn interaction. (2) Proponents of this theory argue that gradual disengagement is functional for society, which would otherwise be faced with disruption by sudden withdrawal of its members. (3) The disengagement theory postulates that society withdraws from the aging person to the same extent as the person withdraws from society. This is , of course just another way of saying that the process is normatively governed and in a sense agreed upon by all concerned.

  23. Main postulates of disengagement theory(p. 215) (4) Cumming and Henry (1961) argue that the process of disengagement was both inevitable and universal. All social systems, if they were to maintain successful equilibrium, would necessarily disengage from the elderly. Disengagement was seen as a prerequisite to social stability. Older people could be released from societal expectation that they work and be productive.

  24. Important disengagement (p. 214) • Important disengagement included the departure of children from families as well as retirement for men or widowhood for women. It was not concerned with nonmodal cases. • Early widowhood or late retirement—nor was it concerned with the special effects of poverty or illness.

  25. Relationship between personality and disengagement (p. 214) • Elaine Cumming, one of the originators of disengagement theory, published a paper in which she discussed the relationship between personality [ or what she called temperament ] and disengagement. • She wrote that all people have a style of adaptation to the environment and went on to identify two different modes of interacting with the environment: the impinging mode and the selecting mode.

  26. The impinging activist and the selector(p. 214) • The impinging activist, willing to try out his or her style of adaptation on others, • The impinger’s judgment may not be as good as it was, but he or she is likely to be viewed as an unusual person for his or her age. • Ultimately, as he becomes less able to control the situations be provokes, he may suffer anxiety and panic through failure both to arouse and to interpret appropriate reactions. • His problem in old age will be avoid confusion.

  27. The selector(p. 215) • The selector can be expected to be more measured in his or her ways. • As a youth, this individual may have appeared to others as withdrawn. • With age, this style seems more appropriate ‘in old—age, because of his reluctance to generate interaction, he may, like a neglected infant, develop a kind of marasmus. • His foe will be apathy rather than confusion’ (Cumming 1963)

  28. Critics on disengagement theory (p. 215) (1) Through the 1960s and 1970s, most research efforts were unable to offer empirical support for the theory.Youmans (1967) found that a sample of the rural elderly did not, in general, experience disengagement. (2) Tallmer and Kumer (1970) found that physical and social stress, rather than aging perse, often produces disengagement. This suggests that the extent to which a person disengages may be a function of that individual’s occupation or position in the community.

  29. Hochschild’s critics (problems) on disengagement theory(p. 215) (1) First, Hochschild argues that the disengagement theory allows no possibility for counterevidence. (2) Second, the major variables in the theory—age and disengagement—turn out to be ‘ umbrella’ variables, which are divisible into numerous other promising variables (social and psychological disengagement). Carp [1969] distinguishes among types of social disengagement, (3) Third, the disengagement theory essentially ignores the aging person’s own view of aging and disengagement. Behavior that looks like disengagement to the observer may have a completely different meaning for the aging person.

  30. Four Other theories(p. 216) Into the 1980s, the activity and disengagement perspectives dominated the theoretical discussion in social gerontology, but several alternative perspectives have since been put forth. Four somewhat related theories that deserve mention are the continuity theory socioenvironmental theory exchange theory symbolic interactionism.

  31. CONTINUITY THEORY (p. 216) • Continuity theory hold that middle—aged and older adults make adaptive choices in an effort to preserve ties with their own past experiences (Atchley1989). • Continuity is a subjective phenomenon and can be internal, external, or both.

  32. Internal continuity (p. 216) • Internal continuity requires memory and is tied to ‘ a remembered inner structure, such as the persistence of a psychic structure of ideas, temperament, affect, experiences, preferences, dispositions, and skill’. • Pressures and attractions that move people toward internal continuity include the importance of cognitive continuity for maintaining mastery and competence, a sense of ego integrity, and self—esteem.

  33. External continuity (p. 217) • External continuity involves memory of the physical and social environments of one’s past, including role relationships and activities. Older people may be motivated toward external continuity by the expectations of others, the desire for predictable social support, or the need to cope with physical and mental health changes as well as changes in social roles involving the empty nest, widowhood, or retirement. • According to Atchley, individuals classify the degree of continuity in their lives into three general categories : too little, optimum, and too much.

  34. SOCIOENVIRONMENTAL THEORY(p. 218) • Socioenvironmental theory directs itself at understanding the effects of the immediate social and physical environment on the activity patterns of aged individuals. • The chief proponent of this theory is Jaber Gubrium [1973, 1975]. • Gubrium concerns himself with the meaning old people place on life and with the effect different physical and social contexts may have on that meaning.

  35. SOCIOENVIRONMENTAL THEORY(p. 218) • This approach is based on the understanding that people respond to the social meaning of events rather than to some absolute aspect of these events. • The responses of persons might easily be different if the social meaning placed on the event by one varies from the meaning placed on that event by the other.

  36. two factors affecting the meaning old people placed on events (p. 218) • According to Gubrium (1973), two factors that affect the meaning old people placed on events—and thus their interaction patterns—are the physical proximity(接近性)of other persons and the age homogeneity (年齡同質性)of an environment. • Rosow’s (1967) seminal work on elderly people in Cleveland shows that old people residing in apartment buildings with a high concentration of aged people were more likely to develop friendships with neighbors than was the case for old people residing in buildings with a low concentration of elderly.

  37. Gubrium’s typology of social context(p. 218) On the basic of the possible contributions of the two variables, physical proximity and age homogeneity, Gubrium developed a typology of social contexts. Type 1. Age homogeneous, close physical proximity. Type 2. Age heterogeneous, close physical proximity. Type 3. Age homogeneous, distant physical proximity. Type 4. Age heterogenous, distant physical proximity

  38. Studies (p. 218) • A number of studies show the relationship between age homogeneity and friendship patterns. Messer [ 1967] found that elderly people in age—homogeneous public housing projects in Chicago interacted more frequently than did elderly persons living in age—heterogeneous settings. • Socioenvironmental theory posits that Type 1. social contexts have the highest degree of age concentration and are thus quite conductive to social interaction. Residential apartment buildings for the elderly are the Type 1 variety.

  39. Main arguments of Gubrium on aging(p. 219) (1) Of utmost importance to the socioenvironmental theory is the recognition that different social contexts generate different sets of activity norms for aged. (2)To the extent such norms place behavioral demands on individuals, it becomes clear that different social contexts place different demands on the elderly.

  40. Main arguments of Gubrium on aging(p. 219) (3)Gubrium suggests that individuals who have the resources (health, financial solvency, and social support)] to meet the demands of the environment will show high morale and self—satisfaction. (4)Incongruence between environmental expectations and activity resources leads to low morale and diminished life satisfaction.