Values and adult age: findings from two cohorts of the European Social Survey

Abstract

Human values are assessed biannually in a multinational sample as part of the European Social Survey (ESS). Based on theories of adaptive ageing, it was predicted that ten lower order values and four higher order values would show age differences that would be invariant across (a) two sample cohorts (2002 and 2008), (b) gender and (c) 12 industrialised nations. The value categories measured by the ESS are the following: conservative values (tradition, conformity and security), openness to change values (self-direction, hedonism and stimulation), self-transcendent values (universalism, benevolence) and self-enhancement values (power, achievement). Of the ten lower order values, tradition shows the strongest positive relation with adult age, while the value of stimulation shows the strongest negative relation with age. With regards to the four higher order value categories, conservative values increased across age groups, while openness to change values decreased. Neither of these value types showed cohort or gender differences. Self-transcendence values were greater in midlife and older adults compared with young adults, were higher in women than in men, and higher in the 2008 compared with the 2002 cohort. Self-enhancement values showed a negative relation with age, with men of all age groups scoring higher in this value type than women. Age effects on the four higher order value types were replicated across all 12 countries in the sample, with the single exception of self-enhancement values in Spain, which show no relation with age.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    http://ess.nsd.uib.no/ess/doc/ess1_human_values_scale.pdf.

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Correspondence to Oliver C. Robinson.

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Responsible Editor D.J.H. Deeg.

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Robinson, O.C. Values and adult age: findings from two cohorts of the European Social Survey. Eur J Ageing 10, 11–23 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-012-0247-3

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Keywords

  • Ageing
  • Values
  • Adulthood
  • Gender
  • Europe
  • European Social Survey