Orientation toward others, life satisfaction and health: the relationship of social interest and generativity to positive psychological functioning in old age

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Knill, Mary Katherine

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This study explored the theoretical similarities between Alfred Adler’s idea of social interest and Erik Erikson’s concept of generativity and tested these similarities empirically. It also evaluated the hypothesis that both social interest and generativity would predict well-being in older adults through their effects on life satisfaction and self-rated health. Two path models were proposed to describe the relationships among social interest, generativity, life satisfaction and self-rated health, with life satisfaction and self-rated health as the dependent variables. The first path model explored the effects of social interest and generativity on self-rated health, as mediated by life satisfaction. The second path model reversed the two dependent variables and explored the effects of social interest and generativity on life satisfaction, through their effects on self-rated health. Results demonstrated that, in this sample of 311 adults between the ages of 60 and 96, social interest was not related to generativity, and had no predictive effects on life satisfaction or self-rated health. In the first path model, generativity predicted self-rated health as a direct effect, and life satisfaction fully mediated this effect. In the second path model, generativity predicted life satisfaction, and self-rated health only partially mediated the effect. The results of the first path model indicated that, in this sample population, those who were more satisfied with their lives also believed their health to be better.