Embitterment pp 129-141 | Cite as

Self-regulation of bitterness across the lifespan

  • Carsten Wrosch
  • Jesse Renaud


In this chapter, we address some of the psychological processes involved in the experience of bitterness. In particular, we discuss how goal failure can elicit feelings of bitterness and influence a person’s subjective well-being and physical health. In addition, we explore the role played by control attributions in the experience of bitterness and the importance of adaptive self-regulation for preventing the adverse consequences of bitterness on a person’s quality of life. Finally, we consider how bitterness may be experienced in the context of age-related increases of challenge and failure across the adult lifespan.


Goal Pursuit Positive Reappraisal Adult Lifespan Counterfactual Thinking Goal Adjustment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baltes PB, Cornelius SW, Nesselroade JR (1979) Cohort effects in developmental psychology. In: Nesselroade JR, Baltes PB (eds) Longitudinal research in the study of behavior and development. Academic Press, New York, pp 61–87Google Scholar
  2. Bandura A (1997) Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Bauer I (2004) Unattainable goals across adulthood and old age: Benefits of goal adjustment capacities on well-being. Mater thesis. Concordia University, MontrealGoogle Scholar
  4. Bauer I, Wrosch C, Jobin J (2008) I’m better off than most other people: The role of social comparisons for coping with regret in young adulthood and old age. Psychol Aging, 23:800–811PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brandtstädter J (1990) Entwicklung im Lebenslauf: Ansätze und Probleme der Lebensspannen-Entwicklungspsychologie [Development across the life course: Approaches and problems of life-span psychology]. Köln Z Soziol Sozialpsychol 31:322–350Google Scholar
  6. Brandtstädter J, Renner G (1990) Tenacious goal pursuit and flexible goal adjustment: Explication and age-related analysis of assimilative and accommodative strategies of coping. Psychol Aging 5:58–67PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carstensen LL, Mikels JA (2005) At the intersection of emotion and cognition: Aging and the positivity effect. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 14:117–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carstensen LL, Isaacowitz DM, Charles ST (1999) Taking time seriously: A theory of socioemotional selectivity. Am Psychol 54:165–181PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carver CS, Scheier MF (1981) Attention and self-regulation: A control-theory approach to human behavior. Springer Verlag, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. Carver CS, Scheier MF (1990) Origins and functions of positive and negative affect: A control-process view. Psychol Rev 97:19–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carver CS, Scheier MF (1998) On the self regulation of behavior. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Charles ST, Carstensen LL (2004) A life-span view of emotional functioning in adulthood and old age. In: Costa P (ed) Recent advances in psychology and aging, vol 15. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 133–162Google Scholar
  13. Charles ST, Carstensen LL (2007) Emotion regulation and aging. In: Gross J (ed) Handbook of Emotion Regulation. Guilford Press, New York, pp 307–320Google Scholar
  14. Charles ST, Reynolds C, Gatz M (2001) Age-related differences and change in positive and negative affect over 23 years. J Personal Soc Psychol 80:136–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cohen S (1996) Psychological stress, immunity, and upper respiratory infections. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 5:86–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dickerson SS, Kemeny ME (2004) Acute stressors and cortisol responses: A theoretical integration and synthesis of laboratory research. Psychol Bull 130:355–391PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Duke J, Leventhal H, Brownlee S, Leventhal EA (2002) Giving up and replacing activities in response to illness. J Gerontol: Psychol Sci 57B:367–376Google Scholar
  18. Feather NT, Sherman R (2002) Envy, resentment, schadenfreude, and sympathy: Reactions to deserved and undeserved achievement and subsequent failure. Personal and Soc Psychol Bull 28:953–961Google Scholar
  19. Folkman S, Lazarus RS, Dunkel-Schetter C, DeLongis A, Gruen RJ (1986) Dynamics of a stressful encounter: Cognitive appraisal, coping, and encounter outcome. J Personal Soc Psychol 50:992–1003CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Freund AM, Baltes PB (2002) Life-management strategies of selection, optimization and compensation: Measurement by self-report and construct validity. J Personal Soc Psychol 82:642–662CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Folger R (1987) Reformulating the preconditions of resentment: A referent cognitions model. In: Masters J, Smith W (eds) Social comparison, social justice, and relative deprivation: Teoretical, empirical, and policy perspectives. Hillsdale, NJ, England: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp 183–215Google Scholar
  22. Gilovich T, Medvec VH (1995) The experience of regret: What, when, and why. Psychol Rev 102:379–395PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gilovich T, Medvec VH, Kahneman D (1998) Varieties of regret: A debate and partial resolution. Psychol Rev 105:602–605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Heckhausen J (1997) Developmental regulation across adulthood: Primary and secondary control of age-related challenges. Dev Psychol 33:176–187PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Heckhausen J (1999) Developmental regulation in adulthood. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Heckhausen J, Dixon R, Baltes PB (1989) Gains and losses in development throughout adulthood as perceived by different adult age groups. Dev Psychol 25:109–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Heckhausen J, Schulz R (1995) A life-span theory of control. Psychol Rev 102:284–304PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Heckhausen J, Wrosch C, Fleeson W (2001) Developmental regulation before and afer passing a developmental deadline: The sample case of “biological clock” for child-bearing. Psychol Aging 16:400–413PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heckhausen J, Wrosch C, Schulz R (2010). A motivational theory of lifespan development. Psychol Rev 117:32–60PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Heim C, Ehlert U, Hellhammer D (2000) The potential role of hypocortisolism in the pathophysiology of stress-related bodily disorders. Psychoneuroendocrinology 25:1–35PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Higgins ET (1987) Self-discrepancy: A theory relating self and affect. Psychological Review 94:319–340PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kahneman D (1995) Varieties of counterfactual thinking. In: Roese NJ, Olson JM (eds) What might have been: The social psychology of counterfactual thinking. Hillside, England: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp 375–396Google Scholar
  33. Kukla A (1972) Foundations of an attributional theory of performance. Psychol Rev 79:454–470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kunzmann U, Little T, Smith J (2000) Is age-related stability of subjective well-being a paradox? Cross-sectional and longitudinal evidence from the Berlin Aging Study. Psychol Aging 15:511–526PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Landman J (1987) Regret: A theoretical and conceptual analysis. J Teory Soc Behav 17:135–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lawton M, Kleban M, Rajagopal D, Dean J (1992) Dimensions of affective experience in three age groups. Psychol Aging 7:171–184PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Linden M, Baumann K, Rotter M, Schippan B (2007) The psychopathology of posttraumatic embitterment disorders. Psychopathol 40:159–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lupien SJ, de Leon M, De Santi S, Convit A, et al (1998) Cortisol levels during human aging predict hippocampal atrophy and memory deficits. Nat Neurosci 1:69–73PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Martin-Cook K, Remakel-Davis B, Svetlin D, Hynan LS, Weiner MF (2003) Caregiver attribution and resentment in dementia care. Am J Alzheimer’s Dis Other Dement 18:366–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Miller GE, Chen E, Zhou ES (2007) If it goes up, must it come down? Chronic stress and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis in humans. Psychol Bull 133:25–45PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Miller GE, Wrosch C (2007) You’ve gotta know when to fold’em: Goal disengagement and systemic inflammation in adolescence. Psychol Sci 18:773–777PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Neugarten BL, Hagestad GO (1976) Age and the life course. In: Binstock R, Shanas E (eds) Handbook of aging and social sciences. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. O’Connor RC, Forgan G (2007) Suicidal thinking and perfectionism: The role of goal adjustment and behavioral inhibition/activation systems. J Rational-Emotive Cogn Behav Terapy 25:321–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Roese NJ (1997) Counterfactual thinking. Psychol Bull 121:133–148PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Scheier MF, Magovern GJ, Abbott RA, Matthews KA, Owens JF, Craig Lefebvre R, Carver CS (1989) Dispositional optimism and recovery from coronary artery bypass surgery: The beneficial effects on physical and psychological well-being. J Personal Soc Psychol 57:1024–1040CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Shaver P, Schwartz J, Kirson D, O’Connor C (1987) Emotion knowledge: further exploration of a prototype approach. J Personal Soc Psychol 52:1061–1086CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Taylor SE, Brown JD (1988) Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychol Bull 103:193–210PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Watson D, Clark LA, Tellegen A (1988) Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS Scales. J Personal Soc Psychol 54:1063–1070CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Willerson JT, Ridker PM (2004) Inflammation as a cardiovascular risk factor. Circulation 109:2–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wright RA, Brehm JW (1989) Energization and goal attractiveness. In: Pervin LA (ed) Goal concepts in personality and social psychology. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, pp 169–210Google Scholar
  51. Wrosch C, Bauer I, Miller GE, Lupien S (2007a) Regret intensity, diurnal cortisol secretion, and physical health in older individuals: Evidence for directional effects and protective factors. Psychol Aging 22:319–330PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wrosch C, Bauer I, Scheier MF (2005) Regret and quality of life across the adult life span: Te influence of disengagement and available future goals. Psychol Aging 20:657–670PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wrosch C, Dunne E, Scheier MF, Schulz R (2006) Self-regulation of common age-related challenges: Benefits for older adults’ psychological and physical health. J Behav Med 29:299–306PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wrosch C, Freund AM (2001) Self-regulation of normative and non-normative developmental challenges. Hum Dev 44:264–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wrosch C, Heckhausen J (1999) Control processes before and afer passing a developmental deadline: Activation and deactivation of intimate relationship goals. J Personal Soc Psychol 77:415–427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wrosch C, Heckhausen J (2002) Perceived control of life regrets: Good for young and bad for old adults. Psychol Aging 17:340–350PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wrosch C, Heckhausen J, Lachman ME (2000) Primary and secondary control strategies for managing health and financial stress across adulthood. Psychol Aging 15:387–399PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wrosch C, Miller GE (2009) Depressive symptoms can be useful: Self-regulatory and emotional benefits of dysphoric mood in adolescence. J Personal Soc Psychol 96:1181–1190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wrosch C, Miller GE, Scheier MF, Brun de Pontet S (2007b) Giving up on unattainable goals: Benefits for health? Personal Soc Psychol Bull 33:251–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wrosch C, Scheier MF, Carver CS, Schulz R (2003a) The importance of goal disengagement in adaptive self-regulation: When giving up is beneficial. Self Ident 2:1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wrosch C, Scheier MF, Miller GE, Schulz R, Carver CS (2003b) Adaptive self-regulation of unattainable goals: Goal disengagement, goal reengagement, and subjective well-being. Personal Soc Psychol Bull 29:1494–1508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wrosch C, Schulz R (2008) Health engagement control strategies and 2-year changes in older adults’ physical health. Psychol Sci 19:536–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wrosch C, Schulz R, Heckhausen J (2004) Health stresses and depressive symptomatology in the elderly. A control-process approach. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 13:17–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carsten Wrosch
    • 1
  • Jesse Renaud
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCentre for Research in Human Development Concordia UniversityWest MontrealCanada

Personalised recommendations