Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 263–276 | Cite as

Normative Value Change Across the Human Life Cycle: Similarities and Differences Across Europe

  • Henrik DobewallEmail author
  • Raül Tormos
  • Christin-Melanie Vauclair


Normative change in people’s value priorities (Schwartz, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 25:1–65, 1992) was examined by analyzing repeated cross sections of the 26 countries that participated in at least four of the first seven waves of the European Social Survey (2002–2015). For this purpose, we compared data from different samples taken from five historical cohorts over time in order to identify generalizable patterns in value development that could apply to most people. Results suggest that most cohorts increasingly valued Self-Transcendence over Self-Enhancement in the transition from late adolescence to young adulthood. During and after middle adulthood, age effects were virtually nonexistent in Eastern Europe, relatively weak in Southern Europe, and limited to midlife in North-Western Europe. The results also suggest that all cohorts, except most Northern and Western European cohorts in midlife, became relatively more conservative and less open with age. We present evidence that differences between historical cohorts produced some of the age–values associations that have been found in previous studies. Latent growth curve modeling was used to further summarize the observed intracohort-aging trajectories and to identify potential country-level moderators. This analysis showed that the positive association between normative aging and Self-Transcendence endorsement was stronger in countries that are more affluent.


Values and traditions Value change Age and cohort effects Cultural differences Life-long learning versus formative-/impressionable-years hypothesis 



The preparation of this article was supported by a postdoctoral research fellowship of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness to HD, Academy of Finland project 258578, and a Marie Curie Fellowship (PIRG08-GA-2010-276809) to C-MV.


  1. Allison, P. D. (2012). Handling missing data by maximum likelihood. Keynote presentation at the SAS Global Forum, Orlando, Florida. Retrieved from
  2. Alwin, D. F., & Krosnick, J. A. (1991). Aging, cohorts, and the stability of sociopolitical orientations over the life span. American Journal of Sociology, 97, 169–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bardi, A., Lee, J., A., Hofmann-Towfigh, N., & Soutar, G. (2009). The structure of intraindividual value change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 913–929.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Byrne, B. M., Lam, W. W., & Fielding, R. (2008). Measuring patterns of change in personality assessments: An annotated application of latent growth curve modeling. Journal of Personality Assessment, 90, 536–546.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Cuddy, A. J. C., Norton, M., & Fiske, S. T. (2005). This old stereotype: The pervasiveness and persistence of the elderly stereotype. Journal of Social Issues, 61, 267–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Danigelis, N. L., Hardy, M., & Cutler, S. J. (2007). Population aging, intracohort aging, and sociopolitical attitudes. American Sociological Review, 72, 812–830.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Davidov, E. (2010). Testing for comparability of human values across countries and time with the third round of the European Social Survey. International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 51, 171–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fung, H. H., Ho, Y. W., Zhang, R., Zhang, X., Noels, K. A., & Tam, K. P. (2016). Age differences in personal values: Universal or cultural specific? Psychology and Aging, 31, 274–286.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Galbraith, S., Bowden, J., & Mander, A. (2014). Accelerated longitudinal designs: An overview of modelling, power, costs and handling missing data. Statistical Methods in Medical Research. doi: 10.1177/0962280214547150.Google Scholar
  10. George, L. K. (2010). Still happy after all these years: Research frontiers on subjective wellbeing in later life. The Journals of Gerontology, 65B, 331–339.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Glenn, N. D. (1977). Cohort analysis. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  12. Glenn, N. D. (2005). Quantitative applications in the social sciences: cohort analysis. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  13. Grasso, M. T. (2014). Age, period and cohort analysis in a comparative context: Political generations and political participation repertoires in Western Europe. Electoral Studies, 33, 63–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Inglehart, R., & Welzel, C. (2005). Modernization, cultural change, and democracy: The human development sequence. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jaspers, E., & Pieters, R. (2016). Materialism across the lifespan: An age-period-cohort analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. doi: 10.1037/pspp0000092.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Konty, M. A., & Dunham, C. C. (1997). Differences in value and attitude change over the life course. Sociological Spectrum, 17, 177–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lilleoja, L., Dobewall, H., Aavik, T., Strack, M., & Verkasalo, M. (2016). Measurement equivalence of Schwartz’s refined value structure across countries and modes of data collection: New evidence from Estonia, Finland, and Ethiopia. Personality and Individual Differences, 102, 204–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1999). A five-factor theory of personality. In L. Pervin & O. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (2nd edn., pp. 139–153). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  19. Mishler, W., & Rose, R. (2007). Generation, age, and time: The dynamics of political learning during Russia’s transformation. American Journal of Political Science, 51, 822–834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Realo, A., & Dobewall, H. (2011). Does life satisfaction change with age? A comparison of Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and Sweden. Journal of Research in Personality, 45, 297–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Roberts, B. W., Walton, K. E., & Viechtbauer, W. (2006). Patterns of mean-level change in personality traits across the life course: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 1–25.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Robinson, O. C. (2013). Values and adult age: Findings from two cohorts of the European Social Survey. European Journal of Ageing, 10, 11–23.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 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, 1–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Schwartz, S. H. (2005a). Human values. European Social Survey Education Net. Retrieved May 5, 2014, from
  25. Schwartz, S. H. (2005b). Robustness and fruitfulness of a theory of universals in individual human values. In A. Tamayo & J. Porto (Eds.), Valores e trabalho [Values and work] (pp. 56–95). Brasilia: Editora Universidade de Brasilia.Google Scholar
  26. Tormos, R., Vauclair, C. M., & Dobewall, H. (2017). Does contextual change affect basic human values? A dynamic comparative multilevel analysis across 32 European countries. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 48, 490–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Twenge, J. M., & Foster, J. D. (2010). Birth cohort increases in narcissistic personality traits among American college students, 1982–2009. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1, 99–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. van Herk, H., & Poortinga, Y. H. (2012). Current and historical antecedents of individual value differences across 195 regions in Europe. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 43, 1229–1248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Vecchione, M., Schwartz, S., Alessandri, G., Döring, A. K., Castellani, V., & Caprara, M. G. (2016). Stability and change of basic personal values in early adulthood: An 8-year longitudinal study. Journal of Research in Personality, 63, 111–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Yang, Y., & Land, K. C. (2013). Age-period-cohort analysis: New models, methods, and empirical applications. New York: Chapmen & Hall/CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Zercher, F., Schmidt, P., Cieciuch, J., & Davidov, E. (2015). The comparability of the universalism value over time and across countries in the European Social Survey: Exact vs. approximate measurement invariance. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 733.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Behavioural SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Centre d’Estudis d’Opinió (CEO), Generalitat de CatalunyaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), CISLisboaPortugal

Personalised recommendations