Evaluation of life

Generativity


LASA datafiles
LASAJ802,
LASAJ902 (scale score)

Contact: Almar Kok

Background
Older adults fulfil important roles in society. For example, older adults engage in voluntary work, contribute to the care for their grandchildren and share their life experiences and stories with others (1,2). In such ways, older adults invest a large proportion of their time, knowledge and experience in younger generations. These kind of activities can be useful to older adults, as they can bring about a sense of meaning to late life (3-5). The extent to which older people feel that they are investing in a legacy that will continue in the next generations is referred to as “generativity” (6), a concept that receives increasing attention in the gerontological literature (2).

Generativity is defined by Kotre (7) as “the desire to invest one’s substance in forms of life and work that will outlive the self”.

McAdams & de St. Aubin (8) developed a conceptual model of generativity. The model suggests that generativity is driven by several components. Among these are an inner desire to be needed by one’s community and to live on in the next generation, referred to as ‘symbolic immortality’. This inner desire elicits a conscious concern for the successive generation, in turn generating a commitment to act in ways that benefit others, ultimately resulting in generative action. Over the life course, this process of generative desire, concern, commitment and actions constitute a personal ‘Generativity Script’ that “provides life with unity, purpose, and meaning” (2,8). Based on their conceptual model, McAdams & de St. Aubin developed a 20-item questionnaire aiming to measure these elements; the Loyola Generativity Scale (LGS; 8).

Measurement instrument in LASA
In order to measure generativity, we selected six items from the originally 20-item Loyola Generativity Scale questionnaire (8). The items cover three elements of the conceptual model by McAdams & de St. Aubin (8): inner desire, concern for the next generation, and commitment to generative goals and decisions. Based on factor analysis and other considerations, the six items were combined in a single scale score ranging between 6 and 24, with higher scores indicating stronger generativity (more information below).

Item selection
The selection of items was carried out by three LASA researchers. First, they independently specified their preference for each item (include, maybe, exclude) with a rationale; second, they decided on a final set of six items based on discussion. Items in present tense were preferred over past tense (e.g., ‘I try to pass on my knowledge’ was preferred over ‘I have made unique contributions’, except for the items on symbolic immortality. Third, they independently translated the items to Dutch and then decided through discussion on the final formulation for the questions.

Selected items from the Loyola Generativity Scale (LGS; McAdams and de St. Aubin, 1992)

Selected item

Original LGS item

Conceptual subdomain

1. I try to pass on the knowledge I have gained through my experiences

1

Commitment to Generative Goals

2. I do not feel that other people need me

2

Need to be Needed

3. I have important experiences that I try to teach others

12

Commitment to Generative Goals

4. I feel that I have done nothing that will survive after my death

13

Symbolic Immortality

5. I have a responsibility to improve the community I belong to

18

Concern for the Next Generation

6. I feel as though my contributions will exist after my death

20

Symbolic Immortality

Answer categories
Instead of the original LGS, which used answer options that reflect the frequency to which the statements apply (four options ranging from ‘almost never’ to ‘almost always’), we opted for answer categories that reflect the extent to which the respondent agrees with them in general, ranging from 1 (completely disagree) to 4 (completely agree).

Scale construction
Although theoretically, we would expect the dimensions of “commitment to generative goals”, “symbolic immortality”, “need to be needed” and “concern for the next generation” to be present in the data, the number of items is small, and a smaller number of dimensions or a single dimension may fit the data better. Therefore, we used exploratory factor analysis (EFA), using Principal Axis Factoring and Direct Oblimin rotation to determine the number of subscales with optimal statistical fit. After weighing statistical, conceptual and practical considerations we decided to construct a single scale from the six items. The scale yielded a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.70. For participants with one missing item, we imputed the missing item with the mean of the other five items. For participants with two or more missing items, we computed no scale. The single items are available in J802 and the scale score is available in J902.

Questionnaires
LASAJ802 (self-administered questionnaire, in Dutch)

Variable information
LASAJ802;
LASAJ902 (scale score)
(pdf)

Availability of information per wave 1

 

B

C

D

E


2B*

F

G

H



3B*

MB*

I J

Generativity

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

- Sa

1 More information about the LASA data collection waves is available here.

*  2B=baseline second cohort;
    3B=baseline third cohort;
    MB=migrants: baseline first cohort

Sa=data collected in self-administered questionnaire

Previous use in LASA
There are no publications with this data yet.

References

  1. Cheng, S. T. (2009). Generativity in later life: Perceived respect from younger generations as a determinant of goal disengagement and psychological well-being. Journals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 64(1), 45–54. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbn027
  2. Ehlman, K., & Ligon, M. (2012). The Application of a Generativity Model for Older Adults. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 74(4), 331–344. https://doi.org/10.2190/AG.74.4.d
  3. de St. Aubin, E. (2013). Generativity and the Meaning of Life. In J. Hicks (Ed.), The Experience of Meaning in Life. Springer.
  4. Kruse, A., & Schmitt, E. (2012). Generativity as a Route to Active Ageing. Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/647650
  5. Nantais, C., & Stack, M. (2017). Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences, 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8
  6. Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and Society (2nd ed.). Norton.
  7. Kotre, J. N. (1984). Outliving the self: generativity and the interpretation of lives. John Hopkins University Press.
  8. McAdams, D. P., & de St. Aubin, E. (1992). A theory of generativity and its assessment through self-report, behavioral acts, and narrative themes in autobiography. In Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 62, Issue 6, pp. 1003–1015). https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-3514.62.6.1003