Generativity, or concern with contributing to others, is theorized to be an important goal of mid-to-late life. Greater self-perceptions of generativity are associated with better well-being over time. The aim of this study is to examine how generative self-perceptions and failure to meet generative expectations over time are linked to specific cognitive-affective states (feelings of connectedness, self-worth, and positive affect), and consequently, life satisfaction.
Analyses used data from Waves 2 and 3 of the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS). Multiple mediation was utilized to assess whether these cognitive-affective states linked generative failure to decreased life satisfaction. A Johnson-Neyman moderation analysis determined whether these associations vary with age.
In demographically-adjusted regressions, generative contributions and expectations were associated with greater perceived social connectedness, self worth, and positive affect. Generative failure was associated with lower life satisfaction, a link that was strongest in the middle-aged and young-old and mediated by the cognitive-affective states.
Greater feelings of generativity, and more positive expectations for future contributions, are associated cross-sectionally and over time with better affective well-being. Positive affect, social connectedness, and self-worth may partially explain why generative failure over time is linked to decreased life satisfaction.