Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in PSYCHOLOGY AND AGING: NEBRASKA SYMPOSIUM ON MOTIVATION 1991, ed. John J. Berman and Theo B. Sonderegger. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1992. Pages 169-204. Copyright © 1992 University of Nebraska Press. Used by permission.


It is sometimes thought that the relation between research on aging and the basic sciences is one-sided: gerontologists take the methods and theories of their specialty and apply them to aging populations, but they rarely initiate theories or report findings that could reshape the basic disciplines themselves. Whatever the truth of this perception in general, it is completely false with regard to the psychology of personality. When Eichorn, Clausen, Haan, Honzik, and Mussen (1981) published their summary of the Berkeley longitudinal studies, Sears and Sears (1982) heralded it as "probably the most important unified research contribution to adult social and personality psychology of the last three decades" (p. 927). According to White (1964), personality psychology is the study of lives, and aging is the universal dimension along which lives are led. Renewed attention to the life narrative (McAdams, 1990) and to the adult outcomes of childhood temperament (Caspi, Elder, & Bern, 1987) show the central role that studies of aging must have in many different approaches to the psychology of personality.