W. Andrew Achenbaum
Edmund V. Cowdry’s Problems of Ageing (1939), the first U.S. handbook in gerontology, spurred efforts to systematize and communicate data and hypotheses in a “discouragingly difficult field,” as one of the volume’s contributors put it. Researchers, educators, and practitioners subsequently published handbooks of aging to share basic concepts, norms, and metaphors—and eventually to construct theories.
Compared to theoretical constructs that animate African American studies, paradigms that inform inquiries into sex and gender, and queer theory-building, research on aging is sustained by few evidence-based, methodologically robust, heuristic theories. No single construct yet seizes the gerontological imagination. Analyzing notable handbooks reveals that the modern history of ever-emerging gerontological theory building went through three phases.
First, attempts to formulate Big Theories of Aging resulted in more disappointments than scientific advances. In the second phase, researchers on aging set more modest aims, often giving priority to methodological innovation, but failed to promote consilience in a data-rich, theory-poor arena. Psychological theories, pertaining to lifespan development, merit special attention in the third phase, because they proved useful to biomedical and social scientists doing research on aging.
Organizational psychology represents an important theoretical and practical field of contemporary psychological science that studies mental and behavioral phenomena that take place in individuals and groups belonging to social organizations.
From a historical point of view, the roots of this specialty can be traced to the psychological approaches to the world of industry and work that began to appear in the beginning of the 20th century. The discovery of the relevance of individual differences in both mental and behavioral processes paved the way to the creation of a scientific and technical knowledge that could maximize an adaptation of humans at work that would benefit industrial activities, would increase worker satisfaction, and bring progress and peace to all of society.
Such specialized knowledge has evolved during the past century through a series of stages that permitted a growing theoretical complexity and more efficient technological interventions. This evolution of basic topics includes the study of the human operator; humankind’s capacities and abilities; the influence of social factors upon people in the workplace; and the structures of all sorts of organizations created to obtain desired and needed goals. The relevance of social powers influencing the world of labor have made possible the creation of a rigorous and complex body of scientific knowledge that continuously provides information, advice, and help to modern society in its economic, social, and political structures.
Jeffrey Bond and Tony Morris
Australian sport psychology was effectively “launched” in conjunction with the establishment of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in 1981. Prior to this date, sport psychology sat within the realm of a small number of research academics in tertiary institutions and many more unqualified practitioners with backgrounds in sport, hypnotherapy, medicine, and marketing and sales. The commencement of the legitimacy of the profession in the early 1980s correlated with the co-location of the AIS Sport Psychology Department with other sports medicine and sports science disciplines. From this rather humble but significant beginning, Australian sport psychology quickly became integrated into the training and competition plans of the vast majority of Australian Olympic sports and the developing professional football, tennis, golf, and cricket codes.
The rapid growth of the AIS and its team of qualified and experienced sport psychology practitioners, combined with international competition exposure, international conference presentations, reciprocal visits to international sports institutes, and Olympic training centers culminated in the inclusion of sport psychology within the auspices of the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and the accreditation of undergraduate and postgraduate tertiary programs in Australian universities. Applied sport psychology services are now a regular inclusion in most, if not all, Australian sports programs. An increasing emphasis on athlete and coach mental health in conjunction with the performance enhancement capability associated with sport psychology support has firmly entrenched the profession within the Australian sporting milieu.
Stiliani "Ani" Chroni and Frank Abrahamsen
The evolution in sport, exercise, and performance psychology in Europe goes back to the 1800s and spread from the east (Germany and Russia) to the west of the continent (France). Modern European sport psychology theorizing started with Wilhelm Wundt, who studied reaction times and mental processes in 1879, and Philippe Tissié, who wrote about psychological changes during cycling in 1894. However, Pierre de Coubertin was the one to put forward the first definition and promotion of sport psychology as a field of science. From there on, and despite obstacles and delays due to two world wars in Europe, sport psychology accelerated and caught up with North America. Looking back to the history of our disciplines, while sport, exercise, and performance psychology evolved and developed as distinct disciplines in Europe, sport and exercise psychology research appear to be stronger than performance psychology. The research advancements in sport and exercise psychology led to the establishment of the European sport psychology organization (FEPSAC) in the 1960s, as researchers needed an umbrella establishment that would accept the cultural and linguistic borders within the continent. From there on, education programs developed throughout Europe, and a cross-continent program of study with the collaboration of 12 academic institutions and the support of the European Commission was launched in the late 1990s. Applied sport psychology was practiced in the Soviet Union aiming to enhance the performance of their teams in the 1952 Olympics. Unfortunately, in many countries across Europe, research and practice are not comprehensively integrated to enhance sports and sportspersons, and while applied practice has room to grow, it also has challenges to tackle.
Vincent J. Granito
The history of sport, exercise, and performance psychology in North America dates back to the late 1800s. However, these professionals typically conducted research in the area of motor learning and development, with little connection to other efforts and researchers. They struggled to forge an identity with the parent disciplines of psychology and physical education. By the 1930s, sport psychology was beginning to take shape in the form of topics that would become the foundation of the field. Professionals were also starting to provide services to athletes, such as Coleman Griffith with the Chicago Cubs in 1938. The field came into its own during the 1950s and 1960s as established research labs and educational opportunities became available to students who would go on to develop further opportunities during the 1970s and 1980s. The scholarly journals were launched, professional organizations were set up, and graduate programs were created. Exercise psychology became a subdivision of the field during the 1970s fitness craze, and performance psychology developed into a specialty in the 1980s. This rich history provides a framework for the current makeup of the field and direction for the future.
Clinton Gahwiler, Lee Hill, and Valérie Grand’Maison
Since the 1970s, significant growth globally has occurred in the related fields of sport, exercise, and performance psychology. In Southern Africa, however, this growth has occurred unevenly and, other than isolated pockets of interest, there has been little teaching, research, or practice.
South Africa is an exception, however, even during the years of apartheid. A number of international sport psychology pioneers in fact visited South Africa during the 1970s on sponsored trips. Virtually all this activity took place in the economically advantaged sectors of the country, and it is only since the end of apartheid in 1994 that applied services have been extended to the economically disadvantaged areas through both government and private funding.
The 2010s have also seen a growing awareness in other Southern African countries, which have begun sporadically using (mainly foreign-based) sport psychology consultants. Among these countries, Botswana is currently leading the way in developing locally based expertise.
Throughout the Southern African region, sport, exercise, and performance psychology remain organizationally underdeveloped and unregulated. Local researchers and practitioners in the field face unique challenges, including a multicultural environment and a lack of resources. In working to overcome these challenges, however, they have the potential to significantly add value to the global knowledge base of sport, exercise, and performance psychology.
Jill Suitor, Megan Gilligan, Marissa Rurka, Yifei Hou, and Gulcin Con
Theories of social gerontology have progressed from a focus on individuals’ later-life decline to theories that emphasize the intra- and interindividual variability of later-life experiences and the ways in which such heterogeneity is conditioned by social structural, cultural, and interpersonal factors that often begin in childhood and continue to shape individuals and members of their social networks across the life course. Consistent with theories across the sciences, theories of social gerontology predict and explain real-world experiences. In the case of social gerontology, the goals of theory address a wide array of phenomena, ranging from individuals’ attitudes and motivations, social networks and social support, the actions and functions of formal organizations, the embodiment of cultural norms and stereotypes, social determinants of health, and sources of inequality throughout the life course.. As the field of social gerontology has developed, theories in the field have shown increasing complexity, particularly regarding the roles of early life course experiences, social structural positions, and interpersonal relations in explaining variations in well-being, longevity, and the quality of life across the lifespan. As part of this increased complexity, social gerontology has become increasingly cross-disciplinary, spanning disciplines such as sociology, psychology, biology, anthropology, public health, medicine, and engineering, with a strong emphasis on how each discipline can contribute to developing principles that transcend individual fields. These integrative theories of social gerontology are crucial to developing comprehensive approaches to improving the health and well-being of individuals throughout the life course. Theories of social gerontology help us comprehensively understand the aging process by emphasizing individual characteristics, social relationships, and the larger cultural contexts in which individuals’ lives are embedded.
John W. Rowe and Dawn C. Carr
While the factors that influence the well-being of individuals in late life have long been a major concern of research in aging, they have been a particularly active area of research and debate since the 1980s and continue to have a prominent role in gerontological research and debate. Early research on aging (from the 1920s to the 1960s) focused largely on examining typical problems that come with aging. The term successful aging was initially used to describe those who aged better than expected. In the 1980s, the MacArthur Network on Successful Aging, concerned that the field of gerontology had become preoccupied with disease and disability to the neglect of studies of the factors that fostered doing well in late life, conducted a series of studies of high-performing older persons and formulated the MacArthur theory of successful aging, which included three principal components: avoidance of disease, maintenance of physical and cognitive function, and engagement with society. Since its initial publication, the concept of successful aging has been applied to many subpopulations of older persons based on geography (East vs. West), socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, religion, cognitive or physical function, and disease states.