Reminiscence, a naturally occurring process of recalling personally experienced events from our past, has been investigated primarily from a clinical, gerontological perspective. A total of 268 participants (100 male, 168 female) ranging in age from 17 to 88 years (M age = 40.02, SD = 20.32) completed the Reminiscence Functions Scale (RFS), the Memorial University of Newfoundland Scale of Happiness (MUNSH), and a single-item question assessing the perceived importance of shared family memories. Results indicated neither age nor gender differences on the total RFS score, indicating that men and women of all ages reminisce equally frequently. However, there were gender and age differences on specific dimensions of reminiscence. Specifically, women scored higher on the RFS factor of Identity (Idn) and lower on Bitterness Revival (BiR). Younger adults tended to score higher on the RFS factors of Boredom Reduction (BoR), BiR, Problem-Solving (PS), and Idn compared to older adults. In contrast, older adults tended to score higher on the RFS factors of Teach/Inform (T/I) and Death Preparation (DP). BoR, BiR, and PS correlated negatively with happiness, whereas Conversation (C) and T/I correlated positively with happiness. Finally, T/I, Intimacy Maintenance (IM), Idn, and C all correlated positively with the measure of the perceived importance of shared family memories. The results replicate earlier work with the RFS and suggest that examining reminiscence from a contextual, lifespan perspective is an important research area.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bates, P. B. (1987). Theoretical propositions of life-span developmental psychology: On the dynamics between growth and decline. Developmental Psychology, 23, 611-626.
Bluck, S., & Levine, L. J. (in press). Reminiscence as autobiographical memory: A catalyst for reminiscence theory development. Aging and Society.
Brown-Shaw, M, Westwood, M., & de Vries, B. (in press). Life review and guided autobiography: Integrating reflection and group based enactments. Journal of Aging Studies.
Bruce, D. (1985). The how and why of ecological memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 114, 78-90.
Burnside, I., & Haight, B. K. (1994). Reminiscence and life review: Therapeutic interventions for older people. Nurse Practitioner, 19, 55-61.
Butler, R. N. (1963). The life review: An interpretation of reminiscence in the aged. Psychiatry, 26, 65-76.
Butler, R. N. (1995). Forward: The life review. In B. K. Haight & J. D. Webster (Eds.), The art and science of reminiscing: Theory, research, methods, and applications. Washington, DC: Taylor and Francis.
Ceci, S. J., & Bronfenbrenner, U. (1991). On the demise of everyday memory. American Psychologist, 46, 27-31.
Crovitz, H. F., & Schiffman, H. (1974). Frequency of episodic memories as a function of their age. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 4, 517-518.
De Vries, B., Blando, J., & Walker, L. (1995). An exploratory analysis of the content and structure of the life review. In B. K. Haight & J. D. Webster (Eds.), The art and science of reminiscing: Theory, research, methods, and applications. Washington, D. C.: Taylor and Francis.
Diener, E. (1994). Assessing subjective well-being: Progress and opportunities. Social Indicators Research, 31, 103-157.
Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and society (2nd ed.). New York: Norton.
Fitzgerald, J. M. (1996). Intersecting meanings of reminiscence in adult development and aging. In D. C. Rubin (Ed.), Rememboring our past: studies in autobiographical memory. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Fry, P. S. (1995). A conceptual model of socialization and agentic trait factors that mediate the development of reminiscence styles and their health outcomes. In B. K. Haight & J. D. Webster (Eds.), The art and science of reminiscing: Theory, research, methods, and applications. Washington, DC: Taylor and Francis.
Haden, C. A. (1998). Reminiscing with different children: Relating maternal stylistic consistency and sibling similarity in talk about the past. Developmental Psychology, 34, 99-114.
Haight, B. K. (1988). The therapeutic role of a structured life review process in homebound elderly subjects. Journal of Gerontology, 43, 40-44.
Haight, B. K. (1991). Reminiscing: The state of the art as a basis for practice. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 33, 1-32.
Harris, J., & Hopkins, T. (1994). Beyond anti-ageism: Reminiscence groups and the development of anti-discriminatory social work education and practice. In J. Bornat (Ed.), Reminiscence reviewed: Perspective, evaluations, achievements. Buckingham, U.K.: Open University Press.
Havighurst, R., & Glasser, R. (1972). An exploratory study of reminiscence. Journal of Gerontology, 27, 245-253.
Hyland, D. T., & Ackerman, A. M. (1988). Reminiscence and autobiographical memory in the study of the personal past. Journal of Gerontology, 43, 35-39.
Kozma, A., & Stones, M. J. (1988). Social desirability in measures of subjective well-being: Age comparisons. Social Indicators Research, 20, 1-14.
Kozma, A, Stones, M. J., & McNeil, J. K. (1990). Psychological well-being in later life. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Butterworths.
Merriam, S. B. (1980). The concept and function of reminiscence: A review of the research. The Gerontologist, 20, 604-609.
Merriam, S. B. (1993). Race, sex, and age-group differences in the occurrence and uses of reminiscence. Activities, Adaptation and Aging, 18, 1-18.
Merriam, S. B. (1995). Reminiscence and the oldest old. In B. K. Haight & J. D. Webster (Eds.), The art and science of reminiscing: Theory, research, methods, and applications. Washington, DC: Taylor and Francis.
Merriam, S. B., & Cross, L. H. (1982). Adulthood and reminiscence: A descriptive study. Educational Gerontology, 8, 275-290.
Molinari, V. (in press). Using reminiscence and life review as natural therapeutic strategies in group therapy. In M. Duffy (Ed.), Handbook of counseling and psychotherapy with older adults. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Molinari, V., & Reichlin, R. E. (1985). Life review reminiscence in the elderly: A review of the literature. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 20, 81-92.
Neisser, U. (1991). A case of misplaced nostalgia. American Psychologist, 46, 34-36.
Parker, R. G. (1995). Reminiscence: A continuity theory framework. The Gerontologist, 35, 515-525.
Pepper, S.C. (1942). World hypotheses. Berkeley.: University of California Press.
Perotta, P., & Meacham, J. A. (1981). Can a reminiscing intervention alter depression and self-esteem? International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 14, 23-29.
Romaniuk, M., & Romaniuk, J. G. (1983). Life events and reminiscence: A comparison of the memories of young and old adults. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 2, 125-136.
Rybash, J. M., & Hrubi, K. L. (1997). Psychometric and psychodynamic correlates of first memories in younger and older adults. The Gerontologist, 37, 581-587.
Thornton, S. & Brotchie, J. (1987). Reminiscence: A critical review of the empirical literature. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 26, 93-111.
Tulving, E. (1991). Memory research is not a zero-sum game. American Psychologist, 46, 41-42.
Webster, J. D. (1993). Construction and validation of the Reminiscence Functions Scale. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 48, 256-262.
Webster, J. D. (1994). Predictors of reminiscence: A lifespan perspective. Canadian Journal on Aging, 13, 66-78.
Webster, J. D. (1995). Adult age differences in reminiscence functions. In B. K. Haight & J. D. Webster (Eds.), The art and science of reminiscing: Theory, research, methods, and applications. Washington, DC: Taylor and Francis.
Webster, J. D. (1997). The Reminiscence Functions Scale: A replication. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 44, 137-148.
Webster, J. D. (1998). Attachment styles, reminiscence functions, and happiness in young and elderly adults. Journal of Aging Studies, 12, 315-330.
Webster, J. D. (1999). Reminiscence functions in adulthood: Age, race, and family dynamics correlates. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Webster, J. D. (in press). World views and narrative gerontology: Situating reminiscence within a lifespan perspective. Journal of Aging Studies.
Webster, J. D., & Cappeliez, P. (1993). Reminiscence and autobiographical memory: Complementary contexts for cognitive aging research. Developmental Review, 13, 54-91.
Webster, J. D., & Haight, B. K (1995). Memory lane milestones: Progress in reminiscence definition and classification. In B. K. Haight & J. D. Webster (Eds.), The art and science of reminiscing: Theory, research, methods, and applications. Washington, DC: Taylor and Francis.
About this article
Cite this article
Webster, J.D., McCall, M.E. Reminiscence Functions Across Adulthood: A Replication and Extension. Journal of Adult Development 6, 73–85 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021628525902