Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 185–196 | Cite as

Generativity and Productive Pursuits: Pathways to Successful Aging in Late Midlife African American and White Women

  • H. Shellae Versey
  • Nicola J. Newton


The current study aims to examine correlates of successful aging in the context of midlife, by examining its relationship to generativity, or providing for the next generation (Erikson in Dimensions of a new identity: the 1973 Jefferson lectures in the humanities, W. W. Norton & Co., Oxford, 1974). This research identifies productive activities (e.g., paid work, sports and recreation) and spiritual commitment as potential moderators of the generativity–successful aging relationship, since engagement in these activities has been suggested to benefit health. Furthermore, we examine how these interactions differ for a sample of 237 middle-aged women (mean age = 61), depending on race. Results indicate that, whereas generativity and successful aging are related for the overall sample, this relationship is moderated by sports and recreation activities, and to a lesser extent, spiritual commitment. Importantly, spiritual commitment is associated with a positive relationship between generativity and successful aging, while sports and recreation is associated with a negative one. When viewed by race, spiritual commitment, and sports and recreation activities moderate the relationship specifically for White women, while paid work does so for Black women. This research highlights the importance of examining different pathways between generativity and aging successfully.


Generativity Successful aging Middle age Productive activities 



The authors would like to thank the University of Michigan Center for Statistical Consultation and Research (CSCAR), members of the Gender and Personality in Context laboratory, Abigail J. Stewart and anonymous reviewers for providing feedback on previous drafts of this manuscript. This work was supported by several contributions. Research support provided by the Mental Health Services and Systems Postdoctoral Training Program at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research (Grant No. T32 MH16242-33). Collection of data was supported by research funds provided by a Grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (Grant No. RO1MH47408-03S1) and the MacAuthur Foundation. Successful Midlife Development Network, University of Michigan, College of Literature, Science and the Arts, The Urban Institute, The Henry A. Murray Research Center at Radcliffe College and from the University of Michigan’s Psychology Department.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging ResearchRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.Foley Center for the Study of Lives, School of Education and Social PolicyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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