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Avoiding Aging? Social Psychology's Treatment of Age

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  • Source:
    American Sociologist, v43 n3 p328-347 Sep 2012. 20 pp.
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    Information Analyses; Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
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    • Abstract:
      Population aging, in conjunction with social and cultural transformations of the life course, has profound implications for social systems--from large-scale structures to micro-level processes. However, much of sociology remains fairly quiet on issues of age and aging, including the subfield of social psychology that could illuminate the impact of these broader social forces on individual lives. This study examines the scope of research on age, aging, and the life course in the leading social psychological journal in sociology ("Social Psychology Quarterly") and compares it with coverage in the primary social psychology journal in psychology ("Journal of Personality and Social Psychology") and two sociology journals ("American Sociological Review" and "Journal of Health and Social Behavior"). An analysis of articles published between 1977 and 2006 shows that approximately 7 percent in "Social Psychology Quarterly" or "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology" seriously considered age. In contrast, 11% of articles in "American Sociological Review" and 25% in "Journal of Health and Social Behavior" did so. Across the journals, examinations of age increased over time. However, studies reflect a limited range of methodological and theoretical approaches with few employing qualitative methods or a symbolic interactionist perspective. We discuss several under-explored sites for research on age, aging, and the life course that would enrich social psychological and sociological scholarship more broadly.
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