Generativity: an investigation of its relationship to psychological well-being in adulthood

Author: Carolyn Boyd

Boyd, Carolyn, 2007 Generativity: an investigation of its relationship to psychological well-being in adulthood, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Generativity refers to care and concern for the next generation, and a desire to leave a valuable legacy in the form of a contribution to others and to society (Erikson, 1963; McAdams & de St. Aubin, 1992; Stewart, Franz & Layton, 1988). While generativity is assumed to promote psychological well-being in adulthood, the extent to which this is true of all of its components remains uncertain, despite a considerable body of related research in recent years. Also unclear is the extent to which generativity is characterised similarly or differently over the adult lifespan. Using a quantitative approach, this thesis sought to investigate certain motivational, behavioural and perceptual aspects of generativity and their relationships with age and well-being, in young, midlife and older adults.

The thesis is structured in two parts. Drawing on the prior work of several scholars (e.g., McAdams and e St. Aubin, 1992; Keyes & Ryff, 1998; Stewart & Vandewater, 1998), Part 1 focuses on four elements of generativity: (1) generative concern (an expression of generative motivation); self-evaluations of one's (2) current and (3) whole-of-life generativity; and (4) generative behaviour. In a sample of 292 adults (aged 18 to 87 years), using measures that were derived from instruments initially developed by McAdams and de St. Aubin (1992), it examined age-cohort differences in these components, as well as in their relationships with well-being. Support was found for the overarching hypotheses that: (1) generativity is configured differently at different periods of the lifespan, with high self-evaluations of generativity being more characteristic of mature than of younger adulthood; (2) self-evaluations of generativity are more strongly related to psychological well-being than is either generative concern or generative behaviour; and that (3) the extent to which self-evaluations of current versus whole-of-life generativity predict psychological well-being differs between young, midlife and older adults.

In Part 2 of the thesis, the focus shifts to generativity within the parenting domain. Measures of parental generative .behaviour and self-evaluations of parental generative accomplishment, together with self-evaluations of global (whole-of-life) generativity and psychological well-being, were collected from47 midlife and 60 older patents ranging in age from 40 to 84 years. As expected, midlife parents engaged in higher levels of parental generative behaviour than did older parents, but nevertheless, the relationship between parental generative behaviour and selfevaluations of global generativity was stronger in older parents than in midlife parents. Furthermore, while parental generative accomplishment was related to psychological well-being {integrity and depressed affect) in older adults, only selfevaluations of global generativity predicted well-being in midlife adults. The results of the study highlight the value of investigating generativity at the domain-specific, as well as the global level.

Keywords: generativity, wellbeing, psychology

Subject: Psychology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2007
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work