Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Aging and Public Health

pp 340-341

The Exchange Theory of Aging

  • Jessica Diggs

The exchange theory of aging, proposed by James Dowd in 1975, is a social theory that addresses a perceived loss of status and power associated with aging. It is actually derived from a larger theoretical base known as social exchange theory. Social exchange theory in essence is an economic theory in which the social status of a person is determined by the ratio of rewards to costs associated with interaction with that person. In this context, a reward may be defined as anything actual or perceived that results in the recipient's satisfaction or gratification. Rewards could be in the form of currency, information, goods, services, respect, power, social support, social acceptance, social approval, etc. There are several underlying assumptions that guide this theory. The first is that a person's behavior is in part determined by the person's desire for personal benefit or reward. The second is that activities or interactions that are positively reinforced will continue while activities ...

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