Looking Forward

Looking Forward

Chapter 26 Looking Forward: A New Agenda for Studying Work Across the Lifespan Cort W. Rudolph1, Hannes Zacher2 and Boris B. Baltes3 1 Department of...

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Chapter 26

Looking Forward: A New Agenda for Studying Work Across the Lifespan Cort W. Rudolph1, Hannes Zacher2 and Boris B. Baltes3 1

Department of Psychology, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO, United States, 2Institute of Psychology, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany, 3Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, United States

Our overarching goal in organizing this book was to take stock of the mounting body of research that adopts a lifespan developmental perspective and related theories to study work, careers, and organizations, and to provide an integrative base for future research and practice in this area. Considering this ambitious goal, we are more than pleased that we can offer this comprehensive resource, which coalesces theories and empirical findings on age, work, careers, and organizations based on the lifespan developmental perspective. This book brings together the collective knowledge and ideas of researchers specializing in this area, and we hope that this work serves as a resource for students, researchers, and practitioners interested in work, careers, and organizations across fields and domains of inquiry. In this concluding chapter, we aim to summarize broadly the state of our knowledge concerning work, aging, and retirement from a lifespan developmental perspective. We frame this summary in terms of our vision for a research agenda to move forward research on work across the lifespan. Grounded in the core tenets of the lifespan perspective, and considering the multitude of opportunities for further research outlined by the preceding chapters, we offer this ambitious plan to enhance research in this area. In addition to this agenda, we discuss “how” to study age and aging in work contexts in terms of “best practices” for the design and implementation of empirical research concerning work, aging, and retirement. We conclude with some more general insights about the study of work, aging, and retirement.

Work Across the Lifespan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-812756-8.00026-8 © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.



PART | III Applications of Lifespan Perspectives

As suggested throughout this volume, the lifespan perspective is a metatheoretical account of the ontogenetic process. We can broadly understand the core ideas and foundations of this perspective by considering the seven tenets or “axioms” of lifespan development outlined by Baltes (1987). Indeed, as described by Baltes (1987), “For many researchers, the lifespan orientation entails several prototypical beliefs that, in their weighting and coordination, form a family of perspectives that together specify a coherent meta-theoretical view on the nature of development. The significance of these beliefs lies not in the individual items but in the pattern” (p. 612). As a reminder to our readers, these seven axioms of the lifespan perspective suggest that development: (1) is a lifelong process, (2) is multidirectional, (3) implies gains and losses, (4) is modifiable, (5) is historically embedded, (6) is contextualized, and (7) is multidisciplinary (see also Chapter 1). Next, we discuss how the research reviewed in the preceding chapters has thus far integrated these seven axioms, and how future research should adopt them to further investigate work, aging, and retirement.

DEVELOPMENT IS A LIFELONG PROCESS The lifespan perspective recognizes that development is a continuous, lifelong process. Accordingly, no particular age period or life stage is more or less important, and both continuous (i.e., cumulative) and discontinuous (i.e., innovative) activities constitute the continuum of lifelong development (Baltes, 1987). The idea of development as a lifelong process is well embodied in all of the chapters in this book. For instance, clear links to lifelong development come from the discussion of careers and the long-term process of career development offered by Nagy, Froidevaux, and Hirschi (Chapter 10). Studying aging and development across time is a particular challenge for researchers. The adage, “more longitudinal research is needed,” is an often invoked, and nearly ubiquitous cliche´ in studies concerning age and work (see Ng & Feldman, 2008). Adding to this, research often focuses on age as a substantive individual difference variable, rather than studying aging as a process, over time. To develop research in this area further, it is important to clearly distinguish between the effects of “age” and the process of “aging.” Indeed, it is still rare for studies to focus on the process of aging; rather, studies typically focus on age either as a boundary condition (i.e., as a moderator) or as an antecedent (i.e., as an exogenous variable). This is not to say that studies of age as a boundary condition or as an exogenous variable are not informative. However, researchers must be clear about the limitations of studying age as a substantive variable, and recognize how research designs can be improved to account for such limitations. Zacher (2015) outlines suggestions for studying age and age-related processes in research. Namely, in outlining an agenda for the study of successful aging at work, Zacher (2015) outlines that age as a variable itself is an empty and non-causal indicator that

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serves as a proxy for over-time developmental change. He suggests that researchers could either specify age-related mediators (i.e., those explanatory mechanisms that account for associations between employee age and work outcomes), age-related moderators (i.e., person and/or contextual factors that interact with age in predicting work outcomes), or combinations thereof (i.e., person and/or contextual factors that interact with age in predicting work outcomes via age-related mediators). Regarding the study of aging as a process, future research should endeavor to consider longer-term effects of developmentally relevant constructs on work process and/or outcome variables, over time. A two-pronged strategy seems relevant here: First, researchers should develop theoretically informed models of age-related changes over time. Second, recognizing the feasibility constraints of conducting large-scale longitudinal research, these models could be tested in existing longitudinal datasets that are available in the public domain to researchers. Regarding the first strategy, recent work by Wang et al. (2017) highlights the importance of specifying well-grounded theories of change over time to the development of longitudinal research questions. Similar sentiments are found in earlier work by Ployhart and Vandenberg (2010), wherein it is noted that a well-defined theory of change should (1) explain the form and duration of change, (2) outline the assumed predictors of change, and (3) outline the level at which change should occur (e.g., inter- vs. intraindividual). Regarding the second strategy, a recent issue of Work, Aging and Retirement highlights a set of papers based on the publicly available Health and Retirement Study (Fisher & Ryan, 2018). This collection of papers should serve as a prototype for future research in this area. Indeed, there exists a rich set of public domain longitudinal data resources available for the study of aging and work in the United States (e.g., The Health and Retirement Study; Midlife in the United States; Panel Study of Income Dynamics; National Social Life, Health and Aging Project; National Health and Aging Trends Study) and Beyond (e.g., German Socioeconomic Panel Study; The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing; Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey; Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe). There is a great deal to be learned about the process of aging at work via these resources, and this book should serve as a call to take advantage of this data to support future research efforts.

DEVELOPMENT IS MULTIDIRECTIONAL The lifespan axiom of multidirectionality implies the likelihood for developmental pluralism (i.e., predicted variability and/or heterogeneity) in trajectories of age-related change across functional domains over time. Of note, such pluralism is likely even within the same sphere of functioning (Baltes, 1987). As an example, one may demonstrate gains over time in one functional domain (e.g., crystalized cognitive abilities; emotion regulation), while simultaneously showing


PART | III Applications of Lifespan Perspectives

losses over time in others (e.g., fluid cognitive abilities; physical strength). For instance, this axiom is well represented in the chapters presented by Fisher, Chacon, and Chaffee (Chapter 2) concerning cognitive development and by Jiang and Fung (Chapter 6) concerning emotional development from a lifespan development perspective. Future studies should consider hypotheses regarding predicted variability and heterogeneity in trajectories of age-related changes. This idea is central to the successful aging-at-work framework outlined by Zacher (2015), who suggests: Successful aging at work involves a comparison of employees’ intraindividual age-related trajectories of a work outcome over time and across the working lifespan with other employees’ age-related trajectories of the same outcome. Employees whose trajectories deviate positively from the average trajectory are aging successfully at work, whereas employees whose trajectories deviate negatively are aging unsuccessfully at work.

Given predictions about pluralism across functional domains, future studies should endeavor to test the propositions of successful aging at work in terms of intraindividual age-related trajectories, but also consider testing competing hypotheses (Platt, 1964) that specify opposing, yet reasonable boundary conditions for successful versus unsuccessful aging at work. To this end, given that the notion of plurality implies that multiple pathways to successful aging are possible, person-centered methods (e.g., latent class models for cross-sectional data; growth-mixture models for longitudinal data) may prove particularly useful for identifying subgroups of successful versus unsuccessful agers. A recent example of such a person-centered strategy comes from Thrasher, Zabel, Bramble, and Baltes (2017), who used latent class analysis to differentiate profiles of healthy versus unhealthy older workers; these profiles were found to differ on key motivational variables (e.g., promotion, development, and security motives). An earlier work by Wang (2007) used growth mixture modeling to identify subgroup latent growth patterns associated with the development of retirees’ psychological well-being over time using data from the Health and Retirement Study. Given the rich set of resources available to support archival longitudinal research, future studies should consider such person-centered approaches to investigating pluralism in developmental trajectories.

DEVELOPMENT IMPLIES GAINS AND LOSSES Successful development, according to the lifespan perspective, is defined as the ability to maintain a positive ratio of age-related gains to losses across the lifespan (Baltes & Baltes, 1990). Successful development, therefore, occurs to the extent that one can balance available and developmentally relevant resources (e.g., knowledge and skills; physical and cognitive abilities;

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social connections, see Baltes, 1987) against those lost in the aging process. Olson and Shultz (Chapter 9) argue that contemporary perspectives on successful aging at work well embody the notion that development implies both gains and losses. Likewise, as described by Moghimi, Scheibe, and Freund (Chapter 4), the selection, optimization, and compensation model encompasses the idea that successful aging is a process associated with balancing increases in losses against gains across time. Similarly, Shane and Heckhausen (Chapter 5) discuss how the motivational theory of lifespan development frames gains and losses across the lifespan, and, in particular, how individuals maintain a sense of control when striving towards goals. Rudolph (2016) noted that, although the motivational theory of lifespan development is a comprehensive model of self-regulated goal striving, research on work and aging has often overlooked this important theoretical perspective, instead favoring either other lifespan theories or theories of selfregulated goal striving borrowed from the general motivation literature (e.g., Carver & Scheier, 1998). Future research concerning age and motivational processes, particularly goal striving, should consider theorizing based on the motivational theory of lifespan development, and operationalize optimization in primary and secondary control striving, using the instruments developed by Heckhausen, Schulz, and Wrosch (1998). Similarly, action regulation theory presents a comprehensive framework for understanding a variety of work processes, and Hacker, Sachse, and Seubert (Chapter 8) offer a lifespan perspectives on this grand theory that recognizes how age-related changes (e.g., in cognitive functioning) impact working across the lifespan. An implication of this work is that researchers should examine how age and age-related changes influence the action regulation process at work instead of merely correlating age with work outcomes (see also Zacher, Hacker, & Frese, 2016). For instance, how do age related changes influence the translation of employees’ goals into plans and concrete behavior? Under which conditions are employees from different age groups more likely carefully to monitor and to seek informative feedback on their behavior? Another implication of the integration of action regulation theory with the lifespan perspective offered by Hacker and colleagues is to examine how complete, innovative, and interactive tasks shape the aging process and developmental outcomes, such as employees’ cognitive and personality development as well as physical and mental health. Future work-related research regarding the balance of gains and losses across the lifespan could adopt not only a dynamic, but also a multilevel approach. Such an approach should not only consider employees’ intraindividual development over time, but also interindividual differences, as well as interpersonal, work, and organizational characteristics. For instance, employees’ goal orientations do not only change over time, employees also differ in the extent to which they tend to develop and select promotion (i.e., growth-oriented) and prevention (i.e., loss-avoidance) goals (DeShon & Gillespie, 2005;


PART | III Applications of Lifespan Perspectives

Ebner, Freund, & Baltes, 2006). Certain work characteristics and organizational contexts are likely to induce goal orientations that may not necessarily be consistent with employees’ age-related preferences (Neal, Ballard, & Vancouver, 2017). Furthermore, while most research conducted in the work context has focused on gains and losses (e.g., promotion and prevention orientation), the notion of maintenance (including resilience and recovery; Baltes, Lindenberger, & Staudinger, 2006) has been to some extent neglected, particularly among older workers (cf. Sonnentag, Venz, & Casper, 2017). Research based on the motivational theory of lifespan development, the model of selection, optimization, and compensation, as well as action regulation theory could investigate what employees actually do to maintain levels of well-being and effective functioning over time. For instance, it might be interesting to study whether employees have to show more proactive behaviors, including planning, monitoring, and feedback seeking, to buffer themselves against age-related losses and maintain well-being and functioning.

DEVELOPMENT IS MODIFIABLE Developmental modifiability entails the potential for within-person and overtime dynamics (i.e., intraindividual plasticity). Modifiability implies that multiple developmental courses are possible and likely; however, one of the core tasks in development is to seek out and realize opportunities for plasticity (Baltes, 1987). For instance, Nye and Roberts’ (Chapter 3) chapter on the neosocioanalytic model embodies the axiom of modifiability, suggesting that different environmental contexts and socialization experiences can shape personality development across the lifespan. Beier et al. (Chapter 7) similarly discuss how contextual factors, including interventions, may modify age-related trajectories in abilities, motivation, and workplace behavior through the working lifespan. Future research regarding developmental modifiability should consider how work characteristics and environments as well as employee actions can impact changes in work-related abilities, personality characteristics, and motivation over time. In this regard, research could explore the range of plasticity via interventions in the workplace, and to study both favorable and unfavorable changes in employees’ developmental pathways. Furthermore, it would be interesting to know how within-person changes in these pathways influence important work outcomes, such as job attitudes, occupational wellbeing, and performance, and what employees and organizations can do to buffer potentially negative developments.

DEVELOPMENT IS HISTORICALLY EMBEDDED Beyond the influence of the aging process, the lifespan perspective recognizes that development can vary substantially across historical contexts

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(Baltes, 1987). So-called period effects (Glenn, 1976; 2005) suggest that a range of sociocultural conditions can influence the experiences of any given individual and shape the way in which their development unfolds. Notably absent from the chapters in this book is a discussion of the role of so-called “generational differences” is workplace attitudes, behaviors, and other processes. The study of generations, long the purview of sociologists, has recently fallen out of favor in the study of working (e.g., Rudolph & Zacher, 2017). Indeed, the lifespan perspective eschews the notions of generations (i.e., broad groupings of people born within a certain range of years) and generational differences and instead only acknowledges possible cohort (i.e., birth year) effects. Nevertheless, as noted by Baltes and Nesselroade (1984), “. . . the cohort concept legitimately has a different predominant status in sociology than it has in psychology.” Moreover, Baltes (1987) acknowledged that “... classical psychological theory has little to offer when it comes to interpreting the substantive meaning and origin of cohort effects .... the fields of cultural anthropology, historical sociology, and historical medicine may prove to be more relevant” (p. 620). Consistent with our previous calls (Rudolph & Zacher, 2017; Rudolph, Rauvola, & Zacher, 2018), we would like to reinforce the idea that generations and generational difference should not be invoked as reasonable explanatory mechanisms for age-related differences and changes at work. Our previous work (in particular, Rudolph & Zacher, 2017) has outlined an agenda for a more differentiated lifespan developmental perspectives on studying such issues in the workplace. Future research should adopt this framework to gain a more nuanced picture of how age is perceived, constructed, and integrated into various work processes.

DEVELOPMENT IS CONTEXTUALIZED Developmental contextualism refers to the idea that individual development results from dialectics (i.e., interactions) among three distinct influences: normative age-graded, history-graded, and non-normative (Baltes, 1987). Normative age-graded influences are encountered by most people, and manifest as interindividual differences via the typical course of biological maturation and development (e.g., declines in physical functioning and fluid cognitive abilities; prototypical socialization events, such as education, family, and retirement). History-graded influences are linked to the specific time and place in which individual development occurs (Baltes, 1987), and serve as features of one’s biography that could impact interindividual differences in developmental outcomes. Finally, nonnormative influences refer to idiosyncratic developmental influences that are specific to each particular individual. Examples of nonnormative influences could be the unexpected death of a spouse or partner, the sudden onset of a serious illness, or unplanned job loss.


PART | III Applications of Lifespan Perspectives

Considering the typology of normative age-graded, history-graded, and nonnormative influences, most research on aging and work focuses on normative age-graded influences, or average age-related differences or changes. Likewise, there has been a great deal of attention paid to idiosyncratic influences on work outcomes for older workers, with some attention paid to the role of nonnormative developmental influences from a distinctly lifespan perspective in this stream of research (e.g., age and job loss; Wanberg, Kanfer, Hamann, & Zhang, 2016). However, relatively little research concerning work and aging has focused on the role of history-graded influences on work outcomes. One notable exception to this is work by Shoss and Penney (2012), who find that state-level unemployment rates are positively associated with incidence rates of absence due to symptoms of illness and violent acts in the workplace. Likewise, the work of (Bianchi 2013, 2014) provides some evidence for the role that contemporaneous economic conditions can play in transitions from school to work, and for the expression of trait-like individual differences in narcissism. Future research would be well served to consider further how such history graded influences, in conjunction with age, affect work outcomes. In our lifespan-grounded critique of generations, we offer several workable suggestions for building history graded influences into research designs that should help to inform the design of such research efforts (Rudolph & Zacher, 2017). Moreover, the study of nonnormative influences could be extended beyond research on job loss to include developmental effects of other less common work events, such as work-related injuries and traumas (e.g., Haynie & Shepherd, 2011) or radical career changes. For instance, it would be interesting to know the short- and longer-term implications of people’s radical upward or downward occupational changes on work and developmental outcomes, and how these effects differ across age groups.

DEVELOPMENT IS MULTIDISCIPLINARY The final axiom of the lifespan perspective suggests that any single discipline (e.g., psychology, sociology, biology, gerontology) can only provide a partial, and thus incomplete, representation of human development (Baltes, 1987). As such, development must be studied through the lenses of multiple disciplines, with a recognition that myriad factors (e.g., biological, sociocultural) account for development. The chapters in ‘Part Three’ of this book (Chapters 11 through 25) each uniquely embody the multidisciplinary nature of research concerning development as applied to the study of working. Indeed, in considering Chapters 11 through 25, it is clear that research concerning work across the lifespan has inherently adopted a multidisciplinary lens, focusing on a diverse array of topics, and adopting multiple supporting theoretical traditions and perspectives. Within the domain of traditionally “industrial” or “work” psychology topics, lifespan perspectives have been

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applied to the study of job design (Cadiz, Rineer, & Truxillo, Chapter 11), job performance, performance management, and creative performance (Cleveland, Huebner, Anderson, & Agbeke, Chapter 12), learning and training (Sterns & Harrington, Chapter 13), and personnel selection and recruitment (Doverspike, Flores, & VanderLees, Chapter 14). Considering topics on the traditionally “organizational” domain; lifespan perspectives have been applied to the study of occupational health (Schmitt & Unger, Chapter 15); work and nonwork roles (Clark, Sanders, Haynes, Vande Griek, Chapter 16); diversity, including stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination (McCarthy, Heraty, & Bamberg, Chapter 17); teams and intra-/intergroup relations (Ga¨rtner, Nohe, & Hertel, Chapter 18); psychological contracts (Bal & Vantilborgh, Chapter 19); work motivation (Kooij & Kanger, Chapter 20); job attitudes, motives, and values (Thrasher & Bramble, Chapter 21); leadership (Rosing & Jungmann, Chapter 22); emotion, stress, and conflict management (Zapf & Johnson, & Beitler, Chapter 23); organizational culture and climate (Kunze & Toader, Chapter 24); and, finally, retirement and bridge employment (Zhan & Wang, & Daniel, Chapter 25). If these fifteen chapters are any indication of the trajectory for research in this area, then calling for enhanced lines of multidisciplinary inquiry regarding aging at work across the lifespan would seem unnecessary. Instead, we encourage deeper considerations of how various lifespan theories operate, including enhanced and critical perspectives on those processes and mechanisms derived from lifespan perspectives, broadly defined. We outline some potential areas for such “deeper considerations,” next.

META-OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE STATE OF THE LITERATURE We now consider some broader “meta-” observations from this literature. Although the thoughts raised above provide some specific guidance for future research efforts grounded in the lifespan perspective, the following observations should more generally ground future thinking about work, aging, and retirement based in this theoretical tradition.

Integrate Across Lifespan Theories One general observation across lifespan development research, broadly defined, and in terms of application of the lifespan perspective to work, aging, and retirement, is the lack of integration among lifespan theories. That is to say, theories are either invoked in isolation or in parallel to one another (e.g., citing common predictions). However, very few attempts have been made either conceptually or empirically to integrate across lifespan theories. Three notable exceptions to this can be found in the literature.


PART | III Applications of Lifespan Perspectives

Haase, Heckhausen, and Wrosch (2013) present an empirical integration of three lifespan developmental theories: assimilative and accommodative coping (Brandtsta¨dter & Renner, 1990), the model of selection, optimization, and compensation (see Chapter 4), and the motivational theory of lifespan development (see Chapter 5). Developmental regulation mechanisms posited to operate within each of these three theories were classified in term of their operation for goal engagement, goal disengagement, and meta-regulation processes. The results of an empirical test suggest that metaregulation is indirectly associated with wellbeing outcomes through goal engagement and disengagement. Two additional attempts at conceptual integrations can also be found within this literature. First, Salmela-Aro (2009) offers the “lifespan model of motivation” comprised by the “4 Cs”: channeling, choice, coagency, and compensation. This model is grounded in earlier work from lifespan development, and integrates life course sociology perspectives as well. Second, Rudolph (2016) notes that the empirical framework offered by Haase et al. (2013) does not integrate the role of time perspective, as would be indicated by socioemotional selectivity theory (see Chapter 6). Thus, in a conceptual integration of these two models, Rudolph (2016) suggests that future time perspective serves an important role in matching of goals to opportunities within the larger action-phase sequence implied by the motivational theory of lifespan development. More specifically, future time perspective gives temporal context to the types of goal engagement and disengagement strategies that are likely to be employed when faced with limited opportunities to enact one’s goals. While these integrations are compelling, the lack of comprehensive empirical integrations across these theories and the relative complexities in building conceptual integrations that are both of practical utility and testable presents an opportunity for future research.

Resolve Conflicts Among and Across Lifespan Theories As noted by Rudolph (2016), there are several conflicts both among and across various lifespan theories that have not been completely resolved. First, and in general, lifespan theories tend to favor the promotion of enhanced forms of primary control (e.g., proactive goal engagement). Indeed, secondary control (e.g., goal disengagement) may be a reasonable and equally adaptive alternative strategy, particularly when individuals or their contexts are resource limited. This notion of “promoting control” also largely ignores that, regardless of form (primary or secondary), enacting control is an effortful endeavor, and one that may have unintended maladaptive consequences (e.g., Skinner, 1995; Zacher, Schmitt, Jimmieson, & Rudolph, 2018). Second, also regarding maintaining control, the notion that agency is bounded by one’s context is often ignored, as is the idea that context is both an influence on and influenced by one’s development (see Lerner & BuschRossnagel, 1981). Related to these two points, Rudolph (2016) notes that

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successful development is marked by both equifinality and multifinality: there are multiple possible pathways to developmental success, each of which might be very different when construed within-person, but equated between-person. Finally, multiple lifespan theories make predictions about the “amount” one engages in specific developmental regulation strategies (e.g., selection, optimization, and compensation), but not the quality of such strategies. Thus, such perspectives tend to take a, “if a little is good, more is better” perspective (Rudolph, 2016 p. 147). Such “more” arguments tend to ignore the resource-intensive nature of engaging such strategies, while also assuming that people will choose the “right” strategy (i.e., with respect to adaptive utility), and that such strategies operate independently for the agent enacting them (cf., Wynne, 2016). Indeed, as suggested by Heckhausen and Schulz (1993), selection and compensation may over time become dysfunctional when they impair the long-term capacity to engage primary rather than secondary control strategies. These conflicts are difficult to address; however, it is necessary for future research to consider how they can be rectified, particularly if such efforts are geared toward developing and testing integrative lifespan perspectives.

Integrate Across Nonlifespan Theories Lifespan perspectives share many common assumptions with other wellestablished theories that exist within other domains. For example, many of the core goal selection and striving mechanisms implicated within lifespan theories share common elements with control process theories of selfregulation (Carver & Scheier, 1998). Moreover, elements of work adjustment (e.g., continuously striving for person-environment fit; see Dawis, 2005) can be extracted from lifespan perspectives. The conceptual similarities between sociological life course perspectives and lifespan theories have likewise been noted (e.g., Rudolph, 2016). Given such overlaps, we would argue that more conceptual and empirical integrations of these theories across domains is necessary. One recent effort to integrate the lifespan perspective with action regulation theory (Zacher, et al., 2016), the action regulation across the lifespan model (ARAL), should be held up as an example of such a conceptual integration. As described by Hacker, Sachse, and Seubert (Chapter 8), action regulation theory has strong grounding in research on cognitive and behavioral processes. While some research in the tradition of the lifespan perspective has been based on action theory (e.g., Brandtsta¨dter, 1998; Freund & Baltes, 2000), action regulation theory focuses on how actions unfold in applied contexts such as work. The ARAL model describes, one one hand, how age and age-related changes in psychological characteristics and functioning impact the action regulation process. The action regulation process


PART | III Applications of Lifespan Perspectives

consists of the phases of goal development and selection, orientation, planning, monitoring of execution, and feedback processing (see also Zacher & Frese, 2018). On the other hand, the ARAL model explores how the regulation of actions itself might impact the aging process, for instance, by boosting or buffering trajectories in certain psychological characteristics or in work outcomes. While some of the 35 propositions outlined by the ARAL model have received empirical support for some time, others still remain to be tested. Future efforts to integrate lifespan thinking into existing models must be grounded in broader and “grander” theoretical integrations, which recognize similarities in predictions, but also test points of differentiation. For example, one possibility would be to adopt a work adjustment perspectives on successful aging at work. The person-environment fit model of successful aging at work (Kooij, 2015) adopts a “sustainability” perspective, arguing that to maintain continuous person job fit between dynamic person and work characteristics is required for employees to age successfully at work (i.e., to maintain their health, motivation, and work ability). Interestingly, very similar predictions regarding successful work adjustment can be derived from Dawis and Lofquist’s (1984) theory of work adjustment; however, studies of such dynamic person-environment fit perspectives have thus far not considered this cross-domain theoretical integration.

Integrate Between and Across Levels of Analysis Most research concerning age and work is cross-sectional (i.e., single time point) and single source (e.g., self-reported work behaviors). As such, it is still relatively rare to see the modeling of intra-individual processes, or those that may unfold at both the within- and between-person levels of analysis. Regarding the reliance on single-source data, we know relatively little about inter-individual dynamics, exchanges, or how collective processes associated with developmental regulation may emerge within dyads or other collectives (e.g., work groups; see Chapter 18 by Gaertner et al. and Chapter 24 by Kunze and Toader). One notable exception to this is a study by Von Bonsdorff et al. (2016), which investigated relationships among age, selection, optimization, and compensation strategies; high-involvement work practices; and work ability in a sample of nearly 900 employees from 70 Finnish companies. Results of this study suggest that company average age was negatively associated with company-level work ability, which in turn was positively related to company performance (i.e., rated by company managers). Moreover, high-involvement work practices were positively related to company work ability, and the average use of selection, optimization and compensation strategies by employees served to mitigate the negative relationships between company average age on company-level work ability.

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More research is needed that focuses on the manifestations of developmental regulation for both between- and within-unit relationships. To accomplish this, a great deal of critical thought must be put toward explicating the way in which various lifespan developmental regulation mechanisms are conceptualized at various levels of analysis. Indeed, lifespan theories do not provide firm guidance about the composition models (Chan, 1998) that should be considered when conceptualizing developmental regulation strategies at any level higher than the between-person level of analysis. Of note, Baltes (1997) does hint at the possibilities of the collective influence of selection, optimization and compensation strategies, but it is unclear how to conceptualize such individual-level behaviors in the aggregate. Moreover, little if no research has focused on emergent processes associated with lifespan developmental constructs, and particularly not so in a longitudinal (i.e., developmental) sense (see Lang, Bliese, & De Voogt, 2017). For example, Von Bonsdorff et al. (2016) investigated employee average use of selection, optimization, and compensation strategies; however, the case could be made that other aggregate compositions may also be relevant (e.g., dispersion models; those where the meaning of higher level construct is in the dispersion or variance among lower level units; see Chan, 1998).

Integrate Contexts and Ecologies The study of context has a long and important history in the general lifespan developmental literature. For example, Bronfenbrenner (1979) offered ecological systems theory to explain how individuals’ experiences and behaviors are shaped by different contexts. Bronfenbrenner (1979) argued that individual development occurs within the boundaries of five different, yet interrelated, environmental systems (i.e., chronosystem, microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem), each of which exerts an important influence on the course of development. In the 1980s, Ford and Lerner (1992) introduced the notion of developmental contextualism in their explanation of developmental systems theory. Developmental systems theory is an integrative theoretical perspective, which posits that development is influence by continuous person environment interactions, such that changes in both the environment’s characteristics and individuals’ physiological and psychological characteristics are codetermined. Future research concerning work and aging should attempt better to integrate elements of context, borrowing from these rich theoretical traditions. We see two potential venues for research to accomplish this. First, considerations of national context and culture, including investigations of crosscultural differences/similarities, should be undertaken (see Rudolph, Marcus, & Zacher, 2018, for a review and outline of specific directions for future research). Moreover, an enhanced focus on the dynamic interplay between work and non-work roles, including family roles (see Chapter 16), must be


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undertaken. One relevant area for future inquiry regards family role demands and concerns for dependent care responsibilities, including eldercare—an emerging life role that has distinct implications for the aging population, broadly defined (e.g., Zacher, Rudolph, & Reinicke, 2017). Considered together, the directions for future research that fall within the axioms of lifespan development and the “meta-” observations outlined above constitute a new research agenda that will enhance our knowledge concerning work, aging, and retirement from a lifespan developmental perspective. Next, we outline some specific suggestions that constitute “best practices” for conducting such research to ensure the broader validity and generalizability of such work.

ENACTING A “NEW AGENDA” FOR RESEARCH ON WORKING ACROSS THE LIFESPAN To give some direction to how we envision enacting this new research agenda concerning work across the lifespan, we point to recent work that aims to codify a cannon of methodological and statistical “best practices” for studying age in the workplace (Bohlmann, Rudolph, & Zacher, 2018). This work offers eight such recommendations, each of which should serve to guide future research in this area and nicely compliment the specific suggestions for future research outlined here. First, because chronological age is not a causal variable, we must investigate how age-related individual and contextual characteristics influence work outcomes. Thus, as we have suggested here, it is important not only to test simple age and age-moderated effects, but also examine age-related mediators that link such relationships to work outcomes (Zacher, 2015). Second, and related to this first point, age must be operationalized as a continuous variable; creating age groups (including artificially constructed “generational” groupings comprised of age brackets) leads to a loss of statistical power, and to theoretical and conceptual confusion about the meaning and nature of age (Rudolph, 2015). Third, with advancing age, people may become more different from one other due to the “fanning out” of individual developmental trajectories over time (O’Rand, 1996). Accordingly, both individual and contextual characteristics should be modeled to as a means of examining and explaining increased variation in work outcomes among older compared to younger workers. Fourth, regarding sampling and related to the second point, it is important to consider samples with similar numbers of workers from different age groups and to report clearly the proportion of workers in each group. Indeed, a great deal of work omits adults in their mid-careers, leading to possibly erroneous conclusions as a function of sample selection bias (Berk, 1983). Fifth, more appropriately to model hypotheses regarding within-person variability, longitudinal, daily diary, and experimental research designs allow

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investigations regarding how age and age-related characteristics are related to changes in work outcomes over time and across contexts (Bolger & Laurenceau, 2013); such designs should be favored over cross-sectional research methods. Sixth, because many aging effects only start to manifest at older ages, it is important to hypothesize and routinely address the possibility of nonlinear relationships that might better explain the complex process of aging (e.g., Sturman, 2003). This is of particular import to longitudinal research that models within-person changes over time. Seventh, also related to temporal processes, other time-related constructs (e.g., job tenure) may constitute alternative explanations for relationships found between age and work outcomes. Thus, the sensitivity of models to the influence of other temporal process constructs should be routinely tested, and controlled for, if necessary (Zacher & Rudolph, 2018). Finally, the study of discrepancy phenomena is common in the study of aging and work (e.g., age differences; person-environment fit; relative subjective age). However, simple difference score approaches to such phenomena have several methodological problems (e.g., concerns regarding the reliability of difference scores; Edwards, 1995; 2001). A more appropriate methodology uses polynomial regression analysis with response surface methodology jointly to conceptualize discrepancies, without the need to compute difference scores. These eight suggestions for “best practices” offered by Bohlmann et al. (2018) should help to frame the design and implementation of new research concerning work from a lifespan development perspective. While not meant to be wholly prescriptive (i.e., in that not all will apply to every such study), general adherence to these suggestions should help to ensure the quality of research findings.

CONCLUSIONS In concluding this final chapter of our book, we would like to offer sincere thanks to the expert contributors who wrote the chapters that comprise this volume. Without these contributions, this work would not have been possible. We would also like to note that these authors represent a global perspectives on working and lifespan development, with researchers from eight different countries (Austria, Canada, China, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and three continents represented. Given our calls for increased focus on crosscultural dimensions of work and aging, we hope that this trend toward global perspective continues. Moreover, embodying the promise of the lifespan development perspective, we are pleased that this group of experts includes established academics, as well as emerging scholars and early-career researchers. As a whole, this work supports the proposition that, as a meta-theory, the lifespan developmental perspective serves as an important point of integration


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across specific theories, constructs, and empirical findings, and thus provides a useful guide for future research and practice. In closing, Baltes (1997) ends his classic American Psychologist article, “On the Incomplete Architecture of Human Ontogeny” with the suggestion, “. . . the future is not something we simply enter; the future is also something we help create.” (p. 378). In this spirit, we hope that this volume on work across the lifespan as a whole inspires researchers to conduct theory-driven, rigorously designed, and practically relevant research on work across the lifespan.

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