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Using psychological mechanisms to reduce intergenerational ageism via intergroup contact.

Drury, Lisbeth (2017) Using psychological mechanisms to reduce intergenerational ageism via intergroup contact. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:63785)


Positive social interaction between members of opposing social groups (intergroup contact) is an effective method of prejudice reduction (Allport, 1954; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006). This thesis explores how intergroup contact theory can be applied to age groups to reduce ageism towards older adults. Chapters 1 to 3 form the theoretical chapters of the thesis. Chapter 1 defines psychological processes underpinning ageism, provides details of its prevalence, outlines its consequences in society, and gives a justification for its reduction. Chapter 2 introduces the psychological processes underpinning intergroup contact theory and its different formations. This is followed by a literature review of intergenerational contact research, which identifies research gaps in the field and research questions addressed in this thesis.

Four empirical chapters then present findings from eight studies. In Chapter 4, Study 1 provides initial correlational evidence of the relationships between direct intergenerational contact, ageism and related psychological processes. Chapter 5 addresses the research question of whether extended contact can be successfully applied to age groups. Studies 2, 3 and 4 provide novel evidence that extended intergenerational contact reduces ageism and is effective via reduced intergroup anxiety, ageing anxiety and ingroup norms. These studies also support prior research demonstrating that direct contact reduces ageism via intergroup and ageing anxieties.

Chapter 6 presents two studies that extend the focus of the thesis to include age stereotypes. Secondary analysis of national survey data in Study 5 explores the perception of older adults' competence across the lifespan and friendships with older adults. The degree to which young and middle-aged adults perceive that competence declines with age is attenuated by having as little as one older friend. Building on these findings, Study 6 explores the relationships between direct and extended intergenerational contact, ageist attitudes and warmth and competence stereotypes. Corroborating Chapter 4, both direct and extended contact predicted reduced ageism and are effective via increased competence stereotypes and increased warmth stereotypes.

In the final empirical chapter in the thesis Chapter 7 presents two studies that explore intergenerational contact theory in applied contexts. Using an experimental design, Study 7 evaluated an intergenerational programme in which students had conversations with older adults about their technology use. Compared to a control group, the experimental group rated older adults as warmer yet more incompetent. However, only warmth and not incompetence stereotypes formed indirect pathways to subsequent attitudes towards older adults more widely. Study 8 examined care workers positively and negatively experienced intergenerational contact with care home residents. Although care workers experienced more positive than negative contact, negative (but not positive) contact was associated with their attitudes towards care home residents and it generalised to older adults more widely. This indirect effect of negative contact to older adults was effective only for subtle and not blatant ageist attitudes.

Overall, the thesis provides a range of evidence suggesting that intergroup contact theory can be successfully applied to the reduction of ageism. It presents a detailed overview of current knowledge, corroborates existing evidence and presents novel findings for extended contact and mediators of both direct and indirect intergenerational contact.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Abrams, Dominic
Thesis advisor: Swift, Hannah
Thesis advisor: Ray, Sujata
Uncontrolled keywords: Ageism, intergroup contact, intergenerational contact, negative contact, age stereotypes
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2017 22:31 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 09:27 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Drury, Lisbeth.

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