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.
Jill Suitor, Megan Gilligan, Marissa Rurka, Yifei Hou, and Gulcin Con
Nancy Morrow-Howell, Yi Wang, and Takashi Amano
Social participation is a key element of a healthy later life; and from a life course perspective, social participation declines in later life, due to separation from employment and educational institutions, loss of partners and friends, and restrictions due to functional limitations. Thus, maintaining and increasing participation has gained attention from researchers, program administrators, and policy developers. The term “social participation” means activities that involve social exchange and choice, and volunteering is consistently included. Personal, behavioral, health and social services, economics, and social and physical environmental factors have been associated with social participation and volunteering. Higher levels of human capital, social capital, and cultural capital have been associated with higher levels of participation; and the built and social environment can facilitate engagement. Studies demonstrate the positive effects of social participation and volunteering on physical, cognitive, and psychological health of older adults. Role theory and concepts of coping as well as cognitive enrichment have been used to explain these positive outcomes. Volunteering, as a form of social participation, has received much academic attention in the last decade for a few reasons because, more than other social activities, it is altruistic. This feature may increase the health-producing benefits of engagement as well as create good for the community. It is often referred to as creating a “win-win” for the individual and for society. Individual, group, and community interventions have been developed to increase social participation. However, evidence supporting effectiveness is limited and programs are underutilized. Future directions include wider implementation of interventions and more attention to the role of environment in increasing social participation, the use of technology in social participation, and increased understanding of the pathways through with social participation and volunteering improve well-being in later life.
Aggressive behaviors and attitudes are investigated first of all from the viewpoint of psychology, sociology, and philosophy. These three disciplines could provide a coherent groundwork for the science on aggression in sport. The science on aggression in sport would be a discipline united by a bond between related issues and a unity of subject, and not by one uniform method. There are two different viewpoints concerning aggression in sport: the cognitive and the ideological. The cognitive viewpoint approaches sports phenomena objectively in order to describe, explain, and compare them—that is, to present the real situation. The ideological viewpoint approaches the subject in an ideological way; that is, it strives for to presenting sport in the most favorable light, while attempting to hide its vices. This viewpoint makes it nearly impossible to diagnose the existing state of affairs, Attitudes towards aggression in sport, while taking into account other criteria, may be divided into the cognitive and the commonsense interpretations. Proponents of the commonsense viewpoint suggest that aggression is a solely negative entity and that it takes place only in the form of emotionally driven aggression meant to do harm. The cognitive interpretation suggests that there exist two forms of aggression in athletic rivalry: emotional aggression aimed at doing harm to an opponent and necessary aggression resulting from the regulations of a given sport. Aggression in sport—considered from the viewpoint of regulations of particular sports—may be either necessary (that is, instrumental) or non-instrumental (that is, potential in the sense that it enables expression of emotions which are not provided for by regulations). Aggressive behavior is necessary when called for by the regulations of a given sport, specifically, among others, combat sports such as boxing, judo, or wrestling. Competitors who avoid fighting and who do not manifest aggressive behaviors in such a field are induced to manifest them and—if this does not bring results—may be punished by referees and, as a last resort, sent off.
Joseph A. Mikels and Nathaniel A. Young
The adult life span is characterized as a time of divergent trajectories. It is a time of compounding losses (such as physical, sensory, and cognitive declines) and is also a time of surprising growth (such as improvements in well-being and emotion regulation). These divergent trajectories present theorists with the paradox of aging: in the face of accumulating losses, how is it that as people age, they generally feel good and experience greater well-being? Theorists have grappled with this paradox and have focused on how motivational, cognitive, control, and social factors impact emotional development across the adult life span. These foundational theories have paved the way to a deeper understanding of adult life-span development, but they do not draw as deeply from theories in affective science. Some of the latest perspectives on emotion and aging offer integrative views, such as how older adults may experience different discrete emotion (i.e., anger versus sadness) from an evolutionary functional perspective. Other perspectives consider how an array of appraisal processes may change across adulthood (such as shifts in evaluations of self-control versus other-control for younger versus older adults). These newer approaches dig deeper into mechanistic explanations and underscore the need for greater theoretical integration. Later life is clearly a time of increased well-being, but the field is only on the cusp of understanding the mysteries of emotional experience in later life.
Kyungmin Kim and Yijung Kim
The parent-child relationship is one of the most significant social relations for many individuals. In particular, intergenerational ties to adult children often remain as one of the main social networks and sources of support provisions in later life. By reviewing the key literature on older parent-child relations, this article discussed the dynamics and complexity of intergenerational ties and their impact on the lives of older adults. First, we discussed theoretical perspectives that have guided recent research on intergenerational relations, including the life course perspective, and solidarity, conflict, and ambivalence models. Second, we reviewed the literature on structural aspects of the relations, including coresidence, proximity, and contact, and their implications for older adults’ health and well-being. Third, regarding a functional side of parent-child relations, we discussed the different types and implications of support exchanges between older adults and their adult children. Finally, our discussion concluded with the review of emotional qualities (i.e., positive, negative, and ambivalent) in parent-child relations and the factors that may complicate the intergenerational ties in later life. Our review revealed that the significance of parent-child ties remains with the changes in demographic, social, and cultural environments of our aging society, and the different dimensions of parent-child ties (i.e., structural, functional, and emotional) have important influences on older adults’ well-being, quality of life, and health. To better understand the implications of parent-child ties in later life, future research is needed to uncover the specific mechanisms by which different dimensions of intergenerational relations and health outcomes among family members are linked.
Religion, spirituality, and sport is an increasingly popular discipline in the sport psychology framework, often based on one’s own faith and religious beliefs. The spiritual dimension of the human experience first focused on religious and mystic experiences; later, various other states of mind, such as peak experiences, flow, and “being in the zone,” were discussed using the framework of humanistic and positive psychology, including in the context of sports. Human movement activities were part of religious cults and rites in ancient societies, for example in the Greek Olympic Games. Thanks to this tradition, the father of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, wrote about religio athletae when discussing the transcendent aspects of modern sport. Contemporary sport is not connected to religion in such a direct way, however. The modern athlete normally follows his or her own religious tradition in a private manner. This does not mean, however, there is no connection between religion and sport. On the contrary, religious and quasi-religious behavior is commonly found in the sport environment, including superstitious rituals of athletes and fans, prayer in sporting areas, and application of non-Christian practices in sports psychology consulting. Furthermore, deeper values and meanings can be attributed to sport activities as a kind of nonreligious spirituality. It is possible to observe an increasing interest in the religious and spiritual aspects of sports in the new millennium, which can be seen in the establishing of specific professions like sport psychologists or chaplains, as well as university centers for the study of religion and spirituality in sport.
Eric L. Stocks and David A. Lishner
The term empathy has been used as a label for a broad range of phenomena, including feeling what another person is feeling, understanding another person’s point of view, and imagining oneself in another person’s situation. However, perhaps the most widely researched phenomenon that goes by this label involves an other-oriented emotional state that is congruent with the perceived welfare of another person. The feelings associated with empathy include sympathy, tenderness, and warmth toward the other person. Other variations of empathic emotions have been investigated too, including empathic joy, empathic embarrassment, and empathic anger. The term altruism has also been used as a label for a broad range of phenomena, including any type of helping behavior, personality traits associated with helpful persons, and biological influences that spur protection of genetically related others. However, a particularly fruitful research tradition has focused on altruism as a motivational state with the ultimate goal of protecting or promoting the welfare of a valued other. For example, the empathy–altruism hypothesis claims that empathy (construed as an other-oriented emotional state) evokes altruism (construed as a motivational state). Empathy and altruism, regardless of how they are construed, have important consequences for understanding human behavior in general, and for understanding social relationships and well-being in particular.
Cornelia Wrzus and Jenny Wagner
Over the entire life span, social relationships are essential ingredients of human life. Social relationships describe regular interactions with other people over a certain period and generally include a mental representation of the relationship and the relationship partner. Social relationships cover diverse types, such as those with family members, romantic partners, friends, colleagues, as well as with other unrelated people. In general, most of these relationships change in number, contact frequency, and relationship quality during adulthood and old age. For example, both the number of and contact with friends and other unrelated people generally decrease with advancing age, whereas the number of and contact with family members remain rather stable. Relatively little is known about longitudinal changes in the quality of relationships, apart from romantic relationships, because few longitudinal studies have tracked specific relationships. Some explanatory factors, which are discussed in the literature, are (a) motivational changes, (b) reduced time due to work and family demands during adulthood, and (c) resource constraints in older age. Future work on social relationships would benefit from increasingly applying dyadic and network approaches to include the perspective of relationship partners as well as from examining online and offline contact in social relationships, which has already proved important among younger adults.
Diane M. Wiese-Bjornstal
The sociocultural aspects of sport injury and recovery include the broad landscape of social beliefs, climates, processes, cultures, institutions, and societies that surround the full chronological spectrum of sport injury outcomes, ranging from risk through to rehabilitation and retirement. A social ecological view of research on this topic demonstrates that sociocultural influences affect sport injury outcomes via interrelated sport systems extending from the intrasystem (i.e., within sports persons) through the microsystem (i.e., sport relationships), mesosystem (i.e., sport organizations), exosystem (i.e., sport governing bodies), and macrosystem (i.e., sport cultures). Affected sport injury outcomes include sport injury risks and responses during rehabilitation, return to play, and retirement from sport. Some specific examples of sociocultural themes evident in research literature include personal conformity to the cultural expectation to play hurt, social conventions of behavior when sport injuries occur, institutional character or ethics when making return to play decisions, guidelines for the care of athletes prescribed by sport governing bodies, and the economic costs to society for sport injuries. Many elements of sport injury are affected by these sociocultural influences, such as the risk of injuries, rehabilitation processes, and career terminations. Continuing debates and discussions include advocacy for sport rule changes, bans on dangerous sports, institutional responsibility, and global sport safety efforts. These form the basis for recommendations about sociocultural interventions designed to reduce sport injury risks and optimize effective injury recoveries through social and cultural best practices.
Gerben J. Westerhof and Susanne Wurm
Aging is often associated with inevitable biological decline. Yet research suggests that subjective aging—the views that people have about their own age and aging—contributes to how long and healthy lives they will have. Subjective age and self-perceptions of aging are the two most studied aspects of subjective aging. Both have somewhat different theoretical origins, but they can be measured reliably. A total of 41 studies have been conducted that examined the longitudinal health effects of subjective age and self-perceptions of aging. Across a wide range of health indicators, these studies provide evidence for the longitudinal relation of subjective aging with health and longevity. Three pathways might explain this relation: physiological, behavioral, and psychological pathways. The evidence for behavioral pathways, particularly for health behaviors, is strongest, whereas only a few studies have examined physiological pathways. Studies focusing on psychological pathways have included a variety of mechanisms, ranging from control and developmental regulation to mental health. Given the increase in the number of older people worldwide, even a small positive change in subjective aging might come with a considerable societal impact in terms of health gains.