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Multiple standards of aging: gender-specific age stereotypes in different life domains


Whereas it is often stated that aging might have more negative consequences for the evaluation of women compared to men, evidence for this assumption is mixed. We took a differentiated look at age stereotypes of men and women, assuming that the life domain in which older persons are rated moderates gender differences in age stereotypes. A sample of 298 participants aged 20–92 rated 65-year-old men and women on evaluative statements in eight different life domains. Furthermore, perceptions of gender- and domain-specific age-related changes were assessed by comparing the older targets to 45-year-old men and women, respectively. The results speak in favor of the domain specificity of evaluative asymmetries in age stereotypes for men and women, and imply that an understanding of gendered perceptions of aging requires taking into account the complexities of domain-specific views on aging.

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  1. Besides the 65-year-old and the 45-year-old targets, 25-year-old men and women were also rated in the questionnaire; these data are not presented here, but can be obtained from the authors.

  2. We additionally ran the analysis with the between person factor “order”. The only effect that was marginally significant was the interaction target gender × age group × order F(2, 272) = 3.10, p = 0.047, η 2p  = 0.02, which was due to the younger participants rating women more positively if male targets had to be rated first. Due to the small effect that was not of theoretical interest, we decided to drop “order” from further analyses.

  3. Since for the finances domain, the third-item (65-/45-year-old men/women…provide for others financially—do not provide for others financially) had low loadings on the finances factor for all target age groups, we decided to use a two-item scale for this domain. The same was done for the domain of work, where the third-item (65-/45-year-old men/women…have a negative attitude toward retirement—have a positive attitude toward retirement) had low loadings for the middle-aged targets.

  4. All effects involving the age group factor remained significant after including different background variables (education, marital status, health status) as additional factors into the analyses, indicating that none of the age group effects can be explained in terms of differences in these variables.

  5. Analyzing appearance as a single item yielded similar results. Women rated older women as having a more positive appearance than older men, especially among middle-aged and older participants. And even though older targets were generally rated less positively in their appearance than middle-aged targets, women gave less negative ratings of older women’s appearance compared to older men’s. Taken together, the more positive rating of older women compared to older men was true even if we looked only at the ratings for physical appearance.


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This study was supported by two Grants of the VolkswagenStiftung (AZ II/83 142, AZ 86 758) to Klaus Rothermund.

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Correspondence to Anna E. Kornadt.

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Responsible Editor H. Litwin.

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Kornadt, A.E., Voss, P. & Rothermund, K. Multiple standards of aging: gender-specific age stereotypes in different life domains. Eur J Ageing 10, 335–344 (2013).

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