Generativity, the concern for guiding the next generation, is associated with both agentic (self-orientated) and communal (others-orientated) motives. However, the role of agency-communion goal attainment has not been studied with reference to positive emotion across cultures. The present study examined the mediation effects of achievement and altruism goal attainment between generative concern and positive emotion across three diverse cultures. We used achievement goal attainment to measure agentic goal fulfillment and altruism goal attainment to measure communal goal fulfillment. We tested the mediation effects of achievement and altruism goal attainment were tested with a total of six hundred and twenty-three older adults from the Czech Republic, Germany and Hong Kong. Multi-group structural equation modeling was conducted to test whether the hypothesized model was equivalent across the three cultures. Findings suggested that achievement goal attainment mediated between generative concern and positive emotion for all three countries. However, altruism goal attainment mediated the association between generative concern and positive emotion only in Hong Kong but not in the other two countries. While achievement goal attainment may play a significant role in the association between generativity concern and positive emotion across three cultures, the present study also highlights possible cultural variation on the mediation of altruism goal attainment. Findings underscored the need for further developing a model of generativity and well-being that takes into account goal attainment in diverse cultural contexts.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Abele, A. E. (2014). Pursuit of communal values in an agentic manner: A way to happiness? Frontiers in Psychology,5, 1320. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01320.
An, J. S., & Cooney, T. (2006). Psychological well-being in mid to late life: The role of generativity development and parent-child relationships across the lifespan. International Journal of Behavioral Development,30, 20–31. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025406071489.
Au, A., Ng, E., Lai, S., Tsien, T., Busch, H., Hofer, J., et al. (2015). Goals and life satisfaction of Hong Kong Chinese older adults. Clinical Gerontologist,38(3), 224–234. https://doi.org/10.1080/07317115.2015.10081.
Bakan, D. (1966). The duality of human existence: An essay on psychology and religion. Chicago, IL: Rand McNally.
Baltes, P., & Baltes, M. (1990). Psychological perspectives on successful aging: The model of selective optimization with compensation. In P. Baltes & M. Baltes (Eds.), Successful aging: Perspectives from the behavioral sciences (pp. 1–34). New York: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511665684.
Byrne, B. M. (2016). Structural equation modeling with AMOS: Basic concepts, applications, and programming. New York: Routledge.
Cabrita, M., Lamers, S. M. A., Trompetter, H. R., Tabak, M., & Vollenbroek-Hutten, M. M. R. (2017). Exploring the relation between positive emotions and the functional status of older adults living independently: A systematic review. Aging and Mental Health,21(11), 1121–1128. https://doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2016.1204982.
Carstensen, L. L. (1992). Social and emotional patterns in adulthood: Support for socioemotional selectivity theory. Psychology of Aging,7(3), 331–338. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511665684.003.
Cheng, S. T. (2009). Generativity in later life: Perceived respect from younger generations as a determinant of goal disengagement and psychological well-being. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences,64(1), 45–54. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbn027.
Cheng, S. T., Chan, W., & Chan, C. M. A. (2008). Older people’s realisation of generativity in a changing society: The case of Hong Kong. Ageing and Society,28, 609–627. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X07006903.
Dai, B., Zhang, B., & Li, J. (2013). Protective factors for subjective well-being in Chinese older adults: The roles of resources and activity. Journal of Happiness Studies,14(4), 1225–1239. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9378-7.
De St. Aubin, E. (2004). The propagation of genes and memes: Generativity through culture in Japan and the USA. In E. De St. Aubin, D. P. McAdams, & T.-C. Kim (Eds.), The generative society: Caring for future generations (pp. 63–82). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Delle Fave, A., Massimini, F., & Bassi, M. (2011). Hedonism and eudaimonism in positive psychology. In A. Delle Fave, F. Massimini, & M. Bassi (Eds.), Psychological selectin and optimal experience across cultures: Social empowerment through personal growth (pp. 3–18). Dordrecht: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-9876-4_1.
Disabato, D. J., Goodman, F. R., Kashdan, T. B., Short, J. L., & Jarden, A. (2015). Different types of well-being? A cross-cultural examination of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Psychological Assessment,28(5), 471–482. https://doi.org/10.1037/pas0000209.
Emmons, R. A. (2003). Personal goals, life meaning, and virtue: Well-springs of a positive life. In C. L. M. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well-lived (pp. 105–128). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.
Frimer, J. A., Walker, L. J., Dunlop, W. L., Lee, B. H., & Riches, A. (2011). The integration of agency and communion in moral personality: Evidence of enlightened self-interest. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,101(1), 149–163. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023780.
Frimer, J. A., Walker, L. J., Lee, B. H., Riches, A., & Dunlop, W. L. (2012). Hierarchical integration of agency and communion: A study of influential moral figures. Journal of Personality,80(4), 1117–1145. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.2012.00764.x.
Gollob, H. F., & Reichardt, C. S. (1991). Interpreting and estimating indirect effects assuming time lags really matter. In L. M. Collins & J. L. Horn (Eds.), Best methods for the analysis of change: Recent advances, unanswered questions, future directions (pp. 243–259). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Grossbaum, M. F., & Bates, G. W. (2002). Correlates of psychological well-being at midlife: The role of generativity, agency and communion, and narrative themes. International Journal of Behavioral Development,26(2), 120–127. https://doi.org/10.1080/01650250042000654.
Gruenewald, T. L., Liao, D. H., & Seeman, T. E. (2012). Contributing to others, contributing to oneself: Perceptions of generativity and health in later life. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences,67B(6), 660–665. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbs034.
Gruenewald, T. L., Tanner, E. K., Fried, L. P., Carlson, M. C., Xue, Q. L., Parisi, J. M., et al. (2016). The baltimore experience corps trial: Enhancing generativity via intergenerational activity engagement in later life. The Journals of Gerontology Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences, 71(4), 61–70. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbv005.
Hagood, E., & Gruenewald, T. (2018). Positive versus negative priming of older adults’ generative value: Do negative messages impair memory? Aging and Mental Health,22, 257–260. https://doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2016.1239063.
Hau, K. T., & Marsh, H. (2004). The use of item parcels in structural equation modelling: Non-normal data and small sample sizes. The British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, 57, 327–351. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8317.2004.tb00142.x.
Hayes, A. F. (2009). Beyond Baron and Kenny: Statistical mediation analysis in the new millennium. Communication Monographs, 76(4), 408–420.
Hofer, J., Busch, H., Au, A., Poláčková Šolcová, I., Tavel, P., & Tsien Wong, T. (2014). For the benefit of others: Generativity and meaning in life in the elderly in four cultures. Psychology and Aging,29(4), 764–775. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037762.
Hofer, J., Busch, H., Au, A., Poláčková Šolcová, I., Tavel, P., & Tsien Wong, T. (2016). Generativity does not necessarily satisfy all your needs: Associations among cultural demand for generativity, generative concern, generative action, and need satisfaction in the elderly in four cultures. Developmental Psychology,52(3), 509–519. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0000078.
Hofer, J., Busch, H., Chasiotis, A., Kärtner, J., & Campos, D. (2008). Concern for generativity and its relation to implicit pro-social power motivation, generative goals, and satisfaction with life: A cross-cultural investigation. Journal of Personality,76, 1–30. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.2007.00478.x.
Hofstede, G., & Bond, M. H. (1984). Hofstede’s cultural dimensions: An independent validation using Rokeach’s value survey. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology,15, 417–433.
Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal,6(1), 1–55.
Huta, V., & Zuroff, D. (2007). Examining mediators of the link between generativity and well-being. Journal of Adult Development,14, 47–52. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-007-9030-7.
Johnson, K. J., & Mutchler, J. E. (2014). The emergence of a positive gerontology: From disengagement to social involvement. The Gerontologist,54(1), 93–100. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnt099.
Kahana, E., Bhatta, T., Lovegreen, L. D., Kahana, B., & Midlarsky, E. (2013). Altruism, helping, and volunteering: Pathways to well-being in late life. Journal of Aging and Health,25(1), 159–187. https://doi.org/10.1177/0898264312469665.
Kohlberg, L. (1984). Essays on moral development: vol 2. The psychology of moral development (Vol. 2). San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.
Kotre, J. (1995). Generative outcome. Journal of Aging Studies,9(1), 33–41. https://doi.org/10.1016/0890-4065(95)90024-1.
Laguna, M., Alessandri, G., & Caprara, G. V. (2017). How do you feel about this goal? Goal-related affect, positive orientation, and personal goal realization in the family domain. Journal of Happiness Studies,18(3), 827–842. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-016-9750-0.
Lang, F. R., & Carstensen, L. L. (2002). Time counts: Future time perspective, goals, and social relationships. Psychology and Aging,17(1), 125–139. https://doi.org/10.1037/0882-79188.8.131.52.
Mansfield, E. D., & McAdams, D. P. (1996). Generativity and themes of agency and communion in adult autobiography. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,22, 721–731. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167296227006.
Marsh, H. W., Hau, K. T., & Wen, Z. (2004). In search of golden rules: Comment on hypothesis-testing approaches to setting cutoff values for fit indexes and dangers in overgeneralizing Hu and Bentler’s (1999) findings. Structural Equation Modeling,11(3), 320–341. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15328007sem1103_2.
Matthews, G., Jones, D. M., & Chamberlain, A. G. (1990). Refining the measurement of mood: The UWIST mood adjective checklist. British Journal of Psychology,81(1), 17–42. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8295.1990.tb02343.x.
Maxwell, S. E., & Cole, D. A. (2007). Bias in cross-sectional analyses of longitudinal mediation. Psychological Methods,12, 23–44. https://doi.org/10.1037/1082-989x.12.1.23.
McAdams, D. P. (2013). The positive psychology of adult generativity: Caring for the next generation and constructing a redemptive life. In J. D. Sinnott (Ed.), Positive psychology: Advances in understanding adult motivation (pp. 191–205). New York, NY: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-7282-7_13.
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. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,62(6), 1003–1015. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2063.
McAdams, D. P., Hart, H. M., & Maruna, A. S. (1998). The anatomy of generativity. In D. P. McAdams & E. De St. Aubin (Eds.), Generativity and adult development: How and why we care for the next generation (pp. 7–43). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Morrow-Howell, N., Halvorsen, C. J., Hovmand, P., Lee, C., & Ballard, E. (2017). Conceptualizing productive engagement in a system dynamics framework. Innovation in Aging,1(1), 18. https://doi.org/10.1093/geroni/igx018.
Newton, N. J., Herr, J. M., Pollack, J. I., & McAdams, D. P. (2014). Selfless or selfish? Generativity and narcissism as components of legacy. Journal of Adult Development,21(1), 59–68. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-013-9179-1.
Newton, N. J., & Jones, B. K. (2016). Passing on: Personal attributes associated with midlife expressions of intended legacies. Developmental Psychology,52(2), 341–353. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0039905.
Novin, S., Tso, I. F., & Konrath, S. H. (2014). Self-related and other-related pathways to subjective well-being in Japan and the United States. Journal of Happiness Studies,15(5), 995–1014. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-013-9460-9.
O’Laughlin, D., Martin, M. J., & Emilio, F. (2018). Cross-sectional analysis of longitudinal mediation processes. Multivariate Behavioral Research,53(3), 375–402. https://doi.org/10.1080/00273171.2018.1454822.
Ostir, G. V., Berges, I. M., Markides, K. S., & Ottenbacher, K. J. (2006). Hypertension in older adults and the role of positive emotions. Psychosomatic Medicine,68(5), 727–733. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.psy.0000234028.93346.38.
Pöhlmann, K., & Brunstein, J. C. (1997). GOALS: Ein fragebogen zur messung von lebenszielen. [GOALS: A questionnaire assessing life goals]. Diagnostica,43, 63–79.
Rossel, Y. (2012). Lavaan: An R package for structural equation modeling and more. Version 0.5-12 (BETA). Journal of Statistical Software,48(2), 1–36.
Rowe, J. W., & Kahn, R. L. (1997). Successful aging. The Gerontologist, 37, 433–440. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/37.4.433.
Rubinstein, R. L., Girling, L., de Medeiros, K., Brazda, M., & Hannum, S. (2015). Extending the framework of generativity theory through research: A qualitative study. The Gerontologist,55(4), 548–559. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnu009.
Ryff, C. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,57, 1069–1108. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.119.
Sabir, M. (2015). Personalized and global generativity: A prevalent, important, but unlabeled distinction in the literature. Journal of Adult Development,22(1), 14–26. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-014-9197-7.
Santorelli, G., Ready, R., & Mather, M. (2018). Perceptions of emotion and age among younger, midlife, and older adults. Aging and Mental Health,22(3), 421–429. https://doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2016.1268092.
Savalei, V., & Kolenikov, S. (2008). Constrained versus unconstrained estimation in structural equation modeling. Psychological Methods,13(2), 150–170. https://doi.org/10.1037/1082-989X.13.2.150.
Schoklitsch, A., & Baumann, U. (2012). Generativity and aging: A promising future research topic? Journal of Aging Studies,26(3), 262–272. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaging.2012.01.002.
Schotanus-Dijkstra, M., Pieterse, M. E., Drossaert, C. H. C., Westerhof, G. J., de Graaf, R., ten Have, M., et al. (2016). What factors are associated with flourishing? Results from a large representative national sample. Journal of Happiness Studies,17(4), 1351–1370. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-015-9647-3.
Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology,25(1), 1–65. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0065-2601(08)60281-6.
Stowe, J. D., & Cooney, T. M. (2015). Examining Rowe and Kahn’s concept of successful aging: Importance of taking a life course perspective. The Gerontologist,55(1), 43–50. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnu055.
Tabuchi, M., Nakagawa, T., Miura, A., & Gondo, Y. (2015). Generativity and interaction between the old and young: The role of perceived respect and perceived rejection. The Gerontologist,55(4), 537–547. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnt135.
Tanaka, J. S. (1987). How big is big enough? Sample size and goodness of fit in structural equation models with latent variables. Child Development,58(1), 134–146. https://doi.org/10.2307/1130296.
Villar, F. (2012). Successful ageing and development: The contribution of generativity in older age. Ageing and Society,32(07), 1087–1105. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X11000973.
Villar, F., & Celdrán, M. (2012). Generativity in older age: A challenge for universities of the third age (U3A). Educational Gerontology,38(10), 666–677. https://doi.org/10.1080/03601277.2011.595347.
Wenner, J. R., & Randall, B. A. (2016). Predictors of prosocial behavior. Differences in middle aged and older adults. Personality and Individual Differences,101, 322–326. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2016.05.367.
Wettstein, M., Schilling, O. K., Reidick, O., & Wahl, H. W. (2015). Four-year stability, change, and multi-directionality of well-being in very-old age. Psychology and Aging,30(3), 500–516. https://doi.org/10.1037/pag0000037.
Zhang, X., & Savalei, V. (2016). Bootstrapping confidence intervals for fit indexes in structural equation modeling. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal,23, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/10705511.2015.1118692.
This research was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (HO2435/5-1), the Czech Science Foundation (CSF17-02634S) and Institute of Active Ageing of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (5-ZH82). For help in recruitment of participants we thank agencies in Prague (REMEDIUM, o.p.s.) and in Hong Kong (Hong Kong Society for the Aged; Hong Kong Association of Senior Citizens; Tsim Sha Tsui District Kaifong Welfare Association- TSTDKFWA Activities Centre for the Elderly; Hong Kong Christian Service; Kwai Tsing Safe Community and Healthy City Association-Tsing Yi Community Health Centre; S.K.H. Holy Carpenter Church Community Centre). With respect to the translation of Chinese questionnaires we thank Professors Helene Fung of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Conflict of interest
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Au, A., Lai, S., Wu, W. et al. Generativity and Positive Emotion in Older Adults: Mediation of Achievement and Altruism Goal Attainment Across Three Cultures. J Happiness Stud 21, 677–692 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-019-00101-1
- Successful aging
- Goal attainment
- Positive emotion