Europe’s constantly ageing population posits a number of challenges for the European Community. One of the main issues lies in shedding age discrimination that prevents the social inclusion of older people in society. A first step in doing so is to identify negative stereotypes and to uncover the mechanisms that lead to them. Past research has focused solely on psychological factors neglecting the societal context. Hence, the proposed research aims to fill this important gap by investigating the joint impact of societal and psychological variables on shaping age stereotypes and ageism. For this purpose, an explanatory model is developed and tested in a series of four cross-cultural studies.
In the first phase of the project (Study 1 and 2) secondary data from the Ageism module in the European Social Survey will be analyzed. Data are available from more than 50,000 individuals coming from 28 countries in Europe. An explanatory model will be tested with the use of multilevel structural equation modeling that allows examining psychological and societal predictors simultaneously. Study 1 will focus on younger and middle-aged people’s attitudes towards the elderly by examining outcome variables such as prejudice and intergenerational contact. Study 2 will concentrate on the elderly and investigate outcome variables such as experiences of ageism and subjective well-being. In the second phase of the project, a systematic cross-cultural survey will be constructed to further investigate the impact of different societal stereotypes on real-life issues that were not assessed in the ESS. In Study 3, 400 older people from four countries will be surveyed and among others their self-esteem and willingness to engage in voluntary work will be assessed. Study 4 is a quasi-experimental field study that will be conducted in two countries. We will observe to what extent negative age stereotypes are translated into ageist behavior.