Encyclopedia of Gerontology and Population Aging

Living Edition
| Editors: Danan Gu, Matthew E. Dupre

Disengagement Theory

  • Xin ZhangEmail author
  • Hongmei Lin
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69892-2_645-1
  • 29 Downloads

Synonyms

Definition

Disengagement theory postulates that people gradually disengaged from social life as they grow older, which was originally proposed by social scientist Elaine Cumming and colleagues in 1960, and later in 1961, Cumming and Henry systematize this theory into the book – Growing Old – arguing that aging is an inevitable, mutual withdrawal. The theory was based on a longitudinal study conducted by scholars from the University of Chicago, which observed and followed 211 adults between the ages of 50 and 90 in Kansas City. The result found that growing old is not a cheerful time in which granny keeps an eye on the children while basking on the balcony instead of having meetings in the office, suggesting that older adults gradually fade away from the social system where they have played an important role in adulthood.

At the individual level,...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Asiamah N (2017) Social engagement and physical activity: commentary on why the activity and disengagement theories of ageing may both be valid. Cogent Med 4(1):1289664CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atchley RC (1989) A continuity theory of normal aging. Gerontologist 29:183–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baltes PB, Baltes MM (1989) Optimierung durch Selektion und Kompensation: ein psychologisches Modell erfolgreichen Alterns. Z Pädagogik 35:85–105Google Scholar
  4. Boerner K (2004) Adaptation to disability among middle-aged and older adults: the role of assimilative and accommodative coping. J Gerontol Ser B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 59(1):P35–P42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brandtstädter J, Rothermund K (2002) The life-course dynamics of goal pursuit and goal adjustment: a two-process framework. Dev Rev 22:117–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bühler JL, Weidmann R, Nikitin J, Grob A (2019) A closer look at life goals across adulthood: applying a developmental perspective to content, dynamics, and outcomes of goal importance and goal attainability. Eur J Personal Advance 33:359–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buman MP, Hekler EB, Haskell WL, Pruitt L, Conway TL et al (2010) Objective light-intensity physical activity associations with rated health in older adults. Am J Epidemiol 172(10):1155–1165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cheng ST (2009) Generativity in later life: perceived respect from younger generations as a determinant of goal disengagement and psychological well-being. J Gerontol Psychol Sci 64(1):45–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Conejero I, Olié E, Courtet P, Calati R (2018) Suicide in older adults: current perspectives. Clin Interv Aging 13:691–699CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cornwell B, Laumann EO, Schumm LP (2008) The social connectedness of older adults: a national profile. Am Sociol Rev 73(2):185–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crewdson JA (2016) The effect of loneliness in the elderly population: a review. Healthy Aging Clin Care Elder 8:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cumming E, Dean LR, Mccaffrey NI (1960) Disengagement-a tentative theory of aging. Sociometry 23(1):23–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dickson JM, Moberly NJ, O’Dea C, Field M (2016) Goal fluency, pessimism and disengagement in depression. PLoS One 11(11):e0166259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dunne E, Wrosch C, Miller GE (2011) Goal disengagement, functional disability, and depressive symptoms in old age. Health Psychol 30(6):763–770CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Haase CM, Heckhausen J, Wrosch C (2013) Developmental regulation across the life span: toward a new synthesis. Dev Psychol 49(5):964–972CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hall NC, Chipperfield JG, Heckhausen J, Perry RP (2010) Control striving in older adults with serious health problems: a 9-year longitudinal study of survival, health, and well-being. Psychol Aging 25(2): 432–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Havighurst RJ (1961) Successful aging. The Gerontologist 1(1):8–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Heckhausen, Jutta (1997) Developmental regulation across adulthood: primary and secondary control of age-related challenges. Dev Psychol 33(1):176–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Heckhausen J, Schulz R (1995) A life-span theory of control. Psychol Rev 102(2):284–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Heckhausen J, Wrosch C, Schulz R (2010) A motivational theory of life-span development. Psychol Rev 117(1):32–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heckhausen J, Wrosch C, Schulz R (2019) Agency and motivation in adulthood and old age. Annu Rev Psychol 70:191–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hochschild AR (1975) Disengagement theory: a critique and proposal. Am Sociol Rev 40(5):553–569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jobin J, Wrosch C (2016) Goal disengagement capacities and severity of disease across older adulthood: the sample case of the common cold. Int J Behav Dev 40(2):137–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Klinger E (1975) Consequences of commitment to and disengagement from incentives. Psychol Rev 82(1):1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lucas AR, Daniel F, Guadalupe S, Massano-Cardoso I, Vicente H (2017) Time spent in retirement, health and well-being. Eur Psychiatry 41:S339–S340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Miller GE, Wrosch C (2007) You’ve gotta know when to fold’ em: goal disengagement and systemic inflammation in adolescence. Psychol Sci 18(9):773–777CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Müller T, Shaikh M (2018) Your retirement and my health behavior: evidence on retirement externalities from a fuzzy regression discontinuity design. J Health Econ 57:45–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Neter E, Litvak A, Miller A (2009) Goal disengagement and goal re-engagement among multiple sclerosis patients: relationship to well-being and illness representation. Psychol Health 24(2):175–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rothermund K, Brandtstädter J (2003) Coping with deficits and losses in later life: from compensatory action to accommodation. Psychol Aging 18:896–905CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sephton SE, Sapolsky RM, Kraemer HC, Spiegel D (2000) Diurnal cortisol rhythm as a predictor of breast cancer survival. J Natl Cancer Inst 92:994–1000CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Soaresmiranda L, Siscovick DS, Psaty BM, Longstreth WT, Mozaffarian D (2016) Physical activity and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke in older adults: the cardiovascular health study. Circulation 133(2):147–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Stalker JG (2011) Leisure diversity as an indicator of cultural capital. Leis Sci 33(2):81–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tomasik MJ, Silbereisen RK (2012) Beneficial effects of disengagement from futile struggles with occupational planning: a contextualist-motivational approach. Dev Psychol 48(6):1785–1796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tomasik MJ, Silbereisen RK, Heckhausen J (2010) Is it adaptive to disengage from demands of social change? Adjustment to developmental barriers in opportunity-deprived regions. Motiv Emot 34(4):384–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Von Bonsdorff ME, Shultz KS, Leskinen E, Tansky J (2009) The choice between retirement and bridge employment: a continuity theory and life course perspective. Int J Aging Hum Dev 69(2):79–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wiese B, Freund A (2005) Goal progress makes one happy, or does it? Longitudinal findings from the work domain. J Occup Organ Psychol 78:287–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wrosch C, Heckhausen J (1999) Control processes before and after passing a developmental deadline: activation and deactivation of intimate relationship goals. J Pers Soc Psychol 77(2):415–427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wrosch C, Sabiston CM (2013) Goal adjustment, physical and sedentary activity, and well-being and health among breast cancer survivors. Psycho-oncology 22:581–589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wrosch C, Schulz R (2008) Health-engagement control strategies and 2-year changes in older adults’ physical health. Psychol Sci 19(6):537–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wrosch C, Scheier MF, Carver CS, Schulz R (2003a) The importance of goal disengagement in adaptive self-regulation: when giving up is beneficial. Self Identity 2:1–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 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(12): 1494–1508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wrosch C, Bauer I, Scheier MF (2005) Regret and quality of life across the adult life span: the influence of disengagement and available future goals. Psychol Aging 20(4):657–670CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wrosch C, Miller GE, Scheier MF, De Pontet SB (2007) Giving up on unattainable goals: benefits for health? Personal Soc Psychol Bull 33(2):251–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wrosch C, Amir E, Miller GE (2011) Goal adjustment capacities, coping, and subjective well-being: the sample case of caregiving for a family member with mental illness. J Pers Soc Psychol 100(5):934–946CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Psychological and Cognitive SciencesPeking UniversityBeijingChina

Section editors and affiliations

  • Danan Gu
    • 1
  1. 1.Population Division, Department of Economic and Social AffairsUnited NationsNew YorkUSA