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Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Possible Origin of  Ageism

         There are several sources that I have used to explore this post #1[i] and #2.[ii] And 3. First we need to define Externalizing Behavior?
         “Externalizing behaviors are actions that direct problematic energy outward. In other words, a person who shows externalizing behaviors does things that harm others as opposed to lashing out at the self (which are internalizing behaviors). Externalizing behaviors include physical aggression, verbal bullying, relational aggression, as well as defiance, theft and vandalism.” Quite a range!
         Now Ageism: “Ageism is a type of discrimination that involves prejudice against people based upon their age. Similar to racism and sexism, ageism involves holding negative stereotypes about people of different ages. Gerontologist Robert N. Butler, in order to describe the discrimination of older adults, first used the term ageism. Today, the term is often applied to any type of age-based discrimination, whether it involves prejudice against children, teenagers, adults or senior-citizens.”
            We will briefly explore the lives of young children in their early years and make reference to the first article. Under the concept of Mutual parent-child attachment several research questions are asked; “1. How much do you admire and look up to your parents? 2. Do your parents believe in showing their love for you? 3. How much time do you spend doing recreational things with your mother? And 4. How much time do you spend with your father on an average Saturday or Sunday?”
       It would seen likely that if children have uncomfortable relationships with their parents, as the both age and the young people become adults that they will project negative attitudes toward older members of their family and other older people in the wider community.
       And while this study had to do with much stronger than ageist attitudes including aggression and bullying it seems like subtler things like attitudes toward older people could my included.
       The next article specifically focuses on the potential intergenerational roots of ageism.  The authors begin with the statement “…age-based prejudice remains an understudied topic of social psychology.” They go on to say that this is a…”crucial gap in the literature, potential intergenerational tensions, speculating how a growing-older population—and society’s efforts to accommodate it—might stroke intergenerational fires, particularly among the younger generation.”
       Next we are told that; “This article represents an attempt to bring ageism into the scientific psychology mainstream through a sociostructural, intergenerational lens.”  The article is very extensive and I spent some time searching through and see if I could find material related to our topic.
       Example #1 “For instance, just as people address small children, “well meaning” (quotations marks mine) people unwittingly (really??? My comment) speak to older people using benevolent yet patronizing baby talk and demeaning, exaggeratedly slow and loud over accommodation.”
       While there is a section entitled “Intergenerational Tensions.” A careful reading indicates that differences and tensions on an intergenerational basis are investigated within the framework of social psychological factors rather than interpersonal developmental; “we” experiences not “me” experiences.
And then I think about personality factors like those of Alfred Adler[iii]
  “The fundamentals of Adlerian Individual Psychology are:
1.   Humans are social beings whose main desire is to    belong.
2.   All behavior is purposive. One cannot understand the behavior of another person unless one knows to which goal it is directed and behavior is always directed towards finding one’s place.
3.   Human beings are decision-making organisms. We decide what we want to do often without being aware of it.
4.   Holism – each of us is a whole being who cannot be understood by some partial characteristics. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We can perceive a pattern of behavior.
5.   Human’s do not see reality but only what he/she perceives as reality and that perceptions may be mistaken or biased

These factors are developed in early childhood. 
a.   I am…….
b.  The world is…….
c.   In order to have a place I must…

          Intergenerational family factors are translated into a perception of how the world works and what we “must” do to survive.

[i] J.S. Brook et al, Published online April 2011. The Association of Externalizing             Behavior and Parent—Child Relationships: An intergenerational Study, J.             Child Fam Stud 21,: 418-427.  DOI 10.1007/s10826-011-9493-9

[ii] North M.S & FiskeS.T. Ageism and its Potential Intergenerational Roots             Prinston University.  Correspondence concerning this article should be             addressed to Michael S. North, Princeton University, Department of             Psychology Green Hall, Princeton, NJ08540. Email mnorth@princeton
[iii]  Compiled by Linda King, Maple Ridge BC Family Education Centre

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