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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

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    We excluded ESS respondents born and raised before WWII (1900–1925).

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Correspondence to Henrik Dobewall.

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Dobewall, H., Tormos, R. & Vauclair, CM. Normative Value Change Across the Human Life Cycle: Similarities and Differences Across Europe. J Adult Dev 24, 263–276 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-017-9264-y

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Keywords

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