- Ageism in the context of global population aging could lead to increasing human and economic costs. Age stereotypes tend to be negative (Hummert, 1990) and ubiquitous (Nelson, 2002) there are a variety of well documented detrimental consequences of negative age stereotypes on older adults' physical, cognitive and psychological outcomes (Hummert, 2011; Levy, 2009; Hess et al., 2003). This contributes to a toxic social environment for older people. The issue is of growing importance especially in Asia, where most of today's older people reside (United Nations, 2012) and where ageism appears to be on the rise despite traditional predictions that cultural collectivism and filial piety should protect against negative stereotypes (North & Fiske, 2015).
Ageism is proposed by stereotype embodiment theory (Levy, 2009) to be driven by a lifespan process by which beliefs about aging are internalized from the sociocultural context of the individual beginning in childhood. In addition, age stereotypes and self-views related to aging assimilate such that age stereotypes also become internalized into one's self-view. Together, age stereotypes and self-views are components of one's overall subjective awareness of aging (AoA), an "integral psychological process or condition of the aging self" representing one's sense of having grown older (Diehl et al., 2014, p. 2). Depending on whether AoA is positive or negative it functions to enhance or constrict developmental opportunity throughout adult development, respectively. In early adulthood, a period characterized by identity consolidation (Côté, 2009; Erikson, 1968) and a developing future time orientation (Nurmi, 1991), age stereotypes stand to be internalized into one’s future oriented self-concept. Internalization of negative age stereotypes into young adults' future self-views (of one's self in old age) matters because it could give rise to negative AoA early in adulthood and developmental trajectories constraining healthy aging later in life.
The cross-cultural ageism research in Western and Eastern societies has assessed stereotypes only and there has been little attention to future self-views (Markus & Nurius, 1986), developmental influences such as experiences with older people (Hagestad & Uhlenberg, 2005), or processes such as internalization by which negative stereotypes can become self-relevant (Levy, 2009). Conversely, the extant work examining internalization of age stereotypes into future self-views as of yet offers little insight into cultural or developmental factors for the processes of internalization (e.g., Kornadt & Rothermund, 2012). Therefore in this dissertation I draw on stereotype embodiment theory (Levy, 2009) and the Awareness of Aging model (Diehl et al., 2014), to examine the positivity of age stereotypes and future self-views among young adults in the U.S. and Taiwan. Data from the Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Aging Study were used to quantitatively measure experiential variables as well as the degree of positivity of age stereotypes and future self-views among 942 American and 659 Taiwanese college students using the Taiwanese developed Older Person Scale (OPS; Lu & Kao, 2009). The dissertation adapted the OPS for first time use in English before using it to examine how cultural context, personal experiences with older adults related to age segregation, and gender impact the positivity of age stereotypes and future self-views cross-culturally.
Multiple group confirmatory factor analysis established partial scalar cross-cultural measurement invariance of 15-item and 17-item versions of the scale for measuring age stereotypes and future self-views, respectively. Results showed a four factor structure of the scale reflecting the domains of 1) physical abilities and appearance, 2) psychological and cognitive abilities, 3) interpersonal relationships and social engagement, and 4) employment and financial security. Content analyses of open ended descriptors of age stereotypes and future self-views among American college students provided a check on the assumption that the OPS captures content of these constructs in the population of American college students. Due to the superior psychometric properties of the OPS for measurement of the social domain, and relevance of this domain for experiences of intergenerational contact, the primary research questions were addressed with respect to the social domain.
Results of moderated mediation modeling showed that, as hypothesized (hypothesis 1), Taiwanese participants exhibited less positivity in stereotypes and self-views in the psychological and social domains but not the physical or employment domains. Contrary to the expectation, Taiwanese age stereotypes were better characterized as slightly positive or ambivalent rather than negative. As predicted by hypothesis 2, females and those reporting regular experience of contact with older adults expressed more positivity in age stereotypes and future self-views in the social domain across cultural contexts. In support of hypothesis 3, age stereotypes mediated the association of 1) cultural context, and 2) contact frequency to the positivity of future self-views in the social domain. Exploratory results indicated that the strength of indirect effects did not vary significantly across cultural contexts or gender. Based on culture- and gender-based differences in interdependence of self-construals (Cross & Madson, 1997; Markus & Nurius, 1986), I hypothesize that Taiwanese students and American women would exhibit stronger association of age stereotypes to future self-views (i.e., internalization) than American men (hypothesis 4). Taiwanese and American women were found to have among the strongest internalization, but, unexpectedly, American men exhibited equal internalization and Taiwanese men exhibited the weakest internalization. A fifth hypothesis predicting that age integration (i.e., contact with both kin and non-kin older people) moderates the association of contact frequency with age stereotypes was unable to be tested due to an unbalanced response distribution on the relevant variable.
Results of this dissertation reinforce the relevance of age stereotypes for future self-views among young adults and speak to the appropriateness of tailoring ageism-focused programs, policies, trainings or educational efforts to the individual or the cultural context.