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Adaptive Self-Regulation across Older Adulthood: The Complementary Roles of Dispositional Optimism and Goal Disengagement

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Adaptive Self-Regulation across Older Adulthood: The Complementary Roles of Dispositional Optimism and Goal Disengagement

Jobin, Joelle (2016) Adaptive Self-Regulation across Older Adulthood: The Complementary Roles of Dispositional Optimism and Goal Disengagement. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

Current demographics are shifting rapidly and the proportion of older adults in the population is growing. In addition, older adulthood now spans more than 30 years of life (Oeppen & Vaupel, 2002). Old age is likely to be accompanied by increasing presence of age-related challenges along with diminishing opportunities to attain important life goals (Baltes & Smith, 2003; National Advisory Council on Aging, 2006). Such circumstances may trigger increased psychological stress in the short-term and may require long-term adaptations as important life goals become unattainable (Heckhausen, Wrosch, & Schulz, 2010). Two individual difference variables, dispositional optimism and goal disengagement have been found to be adaptive in the management of stressful life circumstances and may allow older adults to effectively negotiate changes in age-related opportunities and challenges (Scheier et al., 2010; Wrosch et al., 2013).
Study 1 investigated the role of optimism in the regulation of stress across 6 years in a sample of 135 community dwelling older adults. This study examined the relation between dispositional optimism, perceived stress and cortisol by modelling both, with-in person and between-person associations. Within-person results showed that under circumstances when individuals perceived higher than typical stress levels, optimism buffered against increases across most indicators of cortisol (except CAR). Conversely, between-person results showed that among individuals with higher perceived stress, optimism was associated with a lower CAR. Findings showed that optimism facilitated the physiological management of short-term stress by guarding against increases in cortisol in older adulthood.
Study 2 examined whether the emotional benefits of optimism vary across older adulthood with declining opportunities to overcome stressors. A total of 171 older adults were assessed over a 6 year period to determine how optimism was related to changes in depressive symptoms and perceived stress across older adulthood. Results showed that dispositional optimism protected participants in early phases of older adulthood from exhibiting elevations in depressive symptoms over time, but had reduced benefits among those in advanced old age. The age-related association between optimism and depressive symptoms was most evident during times of stress. These results suggest that the adaptive effects of dispositional optimism become reduced in advanced old age.
Study 3 explored the age-related associations between goal disengagement capacities, emotional distress, and changes in disease severity across older adulthood. This study examined 131 older adults to determine whether goal disengagement capacities protect older adults particularly in advanced old age against experienced illness by preventing emotional distress. Results indicated that goal disengagement capacities protected against 6-year increases in older adults’ self-reported cold symptoms, this effect was particularly pronounced among those in advanced old age. Changes in depressive symptoms were found to mediate the age-related association between goal disengagement and changes in cold symptoms. These findings suggest that as older adults advance in age, goal disengagement capacities may become increasingly important for protecting emotional well-being and physical health.
Overall, the findings outlined have important implications for research in the areas of personality, aging and health. Mechanisms through which dispositional optimism and goal disengagement facilitate the adaptive management of stress throughout older adulthood are highlighted. This research broadens existing life-span theories of motivation by integrating theories of personality with goal-specific processes and may reveal pathways to successful development in older adulthood. Limitations and future directions are discussed.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Psychology
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Jobin, Joelle
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Psychology
Date:11 November 2016
Thesis Supervisor(s):Wrosch, Carsten
Keywords:Aging Dispositional Optimism Goal Disengagement Cortisol Cold Symptoms Depression
ID Code:982537
Deposited By: JOELLE JOBIN
Deposited On:01 Jun 2017 12:58
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:55

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