Original Article

Sex Roles

, Volume 66, Issue 7, pp 530-543

First online:

Women’s Regrets About Their Lives: Cohort Differences in Correlates and Contents

  • Nicky NewtonAffiliated withYoungstown State University, Psychology Department, One University PlazaUniversity of Michigan Email author 
  • , Cynthia TorgesAffiliated withNorth Dakota State University
  • , Abigail StewartAffiliated withUniversity of Michigan

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In this paper we test hypotheses about the importance of life stage in moderating the relationship between acknowledging regrets and concurrent well-being, as well as how changes in women’s social roles during the post-war period affected the content of the regrets they develop. We examine the relationship between women’s life regrets and life satisfaction, and the content of life regrets, using data from 313 predominately white, college-educated women who graduated from the same university in the United States in 1951/2 (age 66), 1972 (age 46) and 1992 (age 26). Analyses revealed that the more types of regrets middle-aged and older women reported (the 1972 and 1951/2 cohorts respectively), the lower their life satisfaction; this pattern did not hold for the youngest women. In terms of the specific content of regrets, exact logistic regressions showed that women in the oldest cohort reported more regrets about prioritizing family over career compared with the later cohorts. Overall, few women reported regrets about prioritizing their careers over families; however, women in the middle cohort were most likely to report these regrets. Results are discussed in terms of both developmental and socio-historical frameworks.


Regret Cohort Family Career Well-being