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Running head: AGING AND AGENCY
On the Limits of Agency for Successful Aging at Work
Rachel S. Rauvola1
Cort W. Rudolph2
1DePaul University
2Saint Louis University
Author Note
Rachel S. Rauvola, Department of Psychology, DePaul University, Chicago, IL, USA.
Cort W. Rudolph, Department of Psychology, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO, USA.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Rachel S. Rauvola,
DePaul University, Byrne Hall, Chicago, IL, 60614,, +1(314) 537-9837
Please Cite As:
Rauvola, R. S., & Rudolph, C. W. (2020). On the limits of agency for successful aging at work.
Industrial and Organizational Psychology. [In Press Accepted Manuscript].
On the Limits of Agency for Successful Aging at Work
“Both access to the means to success, however defined, and the very definition of success itself
are matters of social inequality” – Katz & Calasanti (2015) on “successful aging”
Successful aging, in and outside of work, is an area worthy of research attention. To this
end, Kooij and colleagues (2020) provide a process model of successful aging at work, detailing
proactive and adaptive self-regulatory behaviors that support individuals’ ability and motivation
to continue working (Kooij, Zacher, Wang, & Heckhausen, 2020). We agree with many of their
contentions, but some areas of the model require further consideration.
Such considerations all fall within one broader concern: that Kooij and colleagues’ model
(and all models of “successful aging”, to a degree) are overly agentic, overemphasizing the
degree to which people possess the intrinsic capacity for control. Structural constraints and
limitations directly impact appraisals, experiences, and self-regulatory processes, and individuals
cannot “regulate away” or “through” all of these indefinitely and universally. In its current form,
however, the model does not provide a direct pathway between the constraining forces of age-
related discrimination and bias on the one hand and fit perceptions and self-regulation processes
on the other hand. Such constraints and limitations are the primary focus of our commentary.
We recognize, of course, that including all possible constraints and opportunities in a
single model is both unrealistic and unwieldy (and that Kooij and colleagues’ model was focused
on enabling or triggering factors for self-regulation). However, we would be unduly optimistic,
and ruggedly individualistic, as a field to emphasize facilitating factors and not provide equal
discussion of hindrances and challenges to successful aging. Without an understanding of what
prevents or poses issues for aging successfully at work, we cannot get a full “picture” of aging,
and of how to define “success” inclusively, for the diverse workforce.
Kooij and colleagues call for future research to “take into account that an intervention
carried out at one level might have implications at other levels” and consider “that age-related
bias and discrimination at different levels may hinder the enabling factors at the corresponding
level and constrain their beneficial effects” (p. 29), sentiments that we echo and believe prompt
elaboration in three core areas. Specifically, we contend that limiting and constraining factors
manifest across the macro, meso, and micro levels of Kooij and colleagues’ model, and that these
factors impact individuals' fit appraisals and self-regulatory processes. We discuss each of these
areas by their level of origin, next (i.e., with the understanding that all of these factors have
“cross-level” influences; e.g., systemic influences on individual fit perceptions).
It is worth noting at the outset that a disconnect between macro/meso factors and
successful aging has long been suggested in the lifespan development literature (e.g., Baltes’,
1997 conceptualization of the “incomplete architecture of human ontogeny” offers that there are
age-graded decreases in the efficiency of cultural factors and resources for supporting successful
aging). The missing components from Kooij and colleagues’ model represent this disconnect,
and thereby represent a longstanding concern in the aging literature that bears addressing.
Macro Level: Systems of Oppression and Inequity
Systems of oppression and inequity constrain how, when, and to what end individuals
self-regulate, as well as their perceptions of “fit”. To the former point, motivation, goal processes
(e.g., setting, striving, revision, (dis)engagement), and outcomes (e.g., rewards, performance
appraisals) occur within an environment that is bounded by a multitude of identity-relevant
societal structures, policies, and institutions (e.g., education, healthcare, criminal justice, social
service, employment law). We agree that some of these structures can enable certain self-
regulatory behaviors. Yet, at the same time that these systems enable and privilege some
individuals and some processes, they also disenfranchise and marginalize others—whether
through historical influence (e.g., the lasting impact of segregated housing policies and redlining
in the U.S. throughout the 1900s) or contemporary discrimination (e.g., the recent rise in strict
U.S. voter identification laws and subsequent vote suppression). Such forces, however distal,
have bearing on work behaviors and career decisions.
Individuals do not just age at work; they age at work while embodying other identities
(e.g., class, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, familial status) and contending with
corresponding advantages (e.g., respect, status, social support, trust resulting from being a
member of a perceived majority group) and challenges (e.g., avoidance, exclusion, incivility,
stigmatization resulting from being a member of a perceived minority group). Research supports
the role that factors such as socioeconomic status play in shaping motivation and behavior (e.g.,
proactivity), as well as opportunities (e.g., for goal setting, self-regulatory activities), feedback,
and resources in organizations (e.g., for goal striving; see review in Pitesa & Pillutla, 2019).
Similar research can be found considering other identities such as gender (e.g., Gascoigne, Parry,
& Buchanan, 2015), which is not even to begin tackling the idea of how such social identities
overlap to produce interdependent and unique forms of discrimination and self-regulatory
disadvantage (i.e., an intersectional approach; see Acker, 2006), or how privileges and
disadvantages may accumulate over the life course. Even the supposition of self-reliance
characteristic of lifespan and “successful aging” theories may be promoting disadvantage for
certain groups, depending on cultural norms and values (e.g., those relevant to independence vs.
interdependence; Stephens, Dittmann, & Townsend, 2017). Although we do not often dwell in
the “macro realm”, recognizing the substantive impact of these forces on psychological
processes is imperative.
Much can be said about how systems of oppression and inequity impact individuals’ fit
perceptions as well. “Fit” with one’s environment is multiply determined, which makes its
definition, and its relationships with motivation and self-regulation, complex. Schmader and
Sedikides (2018), for example, highlight cognitive, motivational, and interpersonal components
of person–environment fit that jointly influence situation choice and behaviors. Their model
considers fit broadly rather than in a workplace-specific form; however, their focus on how
individuals seek environments in which they feel “safe” and authentic (i.e., with respect to
identity and acceptance), and how this intersects with individuals’ self-concept, goals, and
relationships, is highly applicable to the work context. “Who” certain work environments are
constructed by and for (e.g., “cultural defaults” or majority groups vs. marginalized or minority
groups) can be signaled in a variety of ways (e.g., visible demographic composition,
organizational policies and practices), and this macro element can shape perceived fit.
Privilege and discrimination filter down into how individuals perceive themselves and
their jobs, workgroups, and organizations—all critical components of fit. They also provide
context for individuals to define “success” in aging, as well as “proactive” and “adaptive” self-
regulation—and the environments in which such forms of self-regulation are or are not possible.
Thus, the “manageability” of perceived misfit, and how individuals act upon it, are bounded by
systemic forces: oppression, discrimination, power, and privilege create unique personal
environments and legacies that both enable and limit agency across time and life domains.
Meso Level: Other Domains and Contradictions
It is similarly important to bear in mind the influence of other life domains (i.e., aside
from one’s work organization, team, role) on fit appraisals and self-regulatory behaviors at work,
as well as how these domains interact, sometimes opposingly, with work. The fact that
individuals have non-work lives, social circles, and roles and responsibilities is not a revelatory
concept: the abundance of (and growth in) work–family and work–life research is a testament to
this. However, the recognition that other domains influence self-regulation and fit perceptions at
work is lagging behind in models of successful aging (cf. Hirschi, Shockley, & Zacher, 2019;
Thrasher, Zabel, Wynne, & Baltes, 2016). Employees live and work in multi-person systems
(e.g., families, communities), and their decisions at and about work (e.g., to remain in vs. leave a
job) rely on more than anticipated or experienced intradomain characteristics and (mis)fit. Not
only may individuals’ non-work lives constrain the energy and resources they have at their
disposal for certain forms of regulation (e.g., goal (dis)engagement, job crafting), but the needs
and demands of one’s non-work life may also dictate decision-making at work that, out of
context, appears contrary to self-preservation (e.g., remaining in a stressful, unsatisfying job to
maintain family health insurance coverage; e.g., Duffy, Blustein, Diemer, & Autin, 2016). Self-
focused decision-making is often a luxury reserved for a fortunate few.
Moreover, these effects are likely interactive or multiplicative, such that certain social
identities may result in heightened salience and potency for non-work influences on work
decision-making: for example, living in poverty may translate into greater family demands (e.g.,
due to the unaffordability of child- and eldercare), leading to more reliance on and strain for
“breadwinning” family members. The influence of control-based interventions (e.g., autonomy
promotion) or work characteristics at various levels (e.g., job, workgroup, organization), as well
as the nature of boundary-spanning resources, demands, and barriers, may differ substantially
when taking such variables into account. An intervention that provides more freedom for
employees may have the unintended consequence of blurring boundaries between work and
family, resulting, for instance, in heightened strain for certain workers (e.g., women under more
financial strain, when contacted frequently by family members during work hours; Badawy &
Schieman, 2019). Here, again, agency, “fit”, and “success” are necessarily defined by context.
Micro Level: Goal Systems and Contingencies
Restrictions on agency filter down to the “micro” level as well. Competing goals and
intersectional identities combine to produce complex goal systems in which individuals appraise
fit and self-regulate. Self-regulation requires the inhibition of alternative goals (both within and
outside of a given domain) and the activation of certain prioritized goal(s). Moreover, goals are
organized in hierarchies, wherein certain “lower” goals fall within a broader umbrella of striving
toward a “higher” goal (e.g., reducing work hours may serve the larger goal of improved well-
being). Just as domains can, in a sense, compete with (or enable) one another, an individual’s
goals can interfere with as well as facilitate each other. Agency may seem necessarily abundant
here: how could context impinge upon all sorts of goal setting, prioritization, and decision-
making? Isn’t some level of such behavior always manageable, barring extreme circumstances?
The answer to this is “yes, but”, taking into consideration the very same motivational systems
that, theoretically, enable some level of adaptation and/or proactivity in any situation.
First, we must consider that self-regulatory ability may fundamentally differ depending
on an individual’s life context. Poverty and stress, for example, are powerful forces that shape
early development and regulatory resources into later life (Evans & Kim, 2013). Second, the
perception of control itself, which is a necessary precondition for fit discrepancy
“manageability” and the engagement of self-regulatory behaviors, may differ significantly for
individuals from vulnerable populations (Thompson & Spacapan, 1991). The same can be said
for how (and if) individuals manage and optimize their goal systems (e.g., as a function of age
and personality; Tomasik, Knecht, & Freund, 2017). Third and finally, if an individual must
again and again disengage from unattainable goals (e.g., at the task or job level) to improve their
perceived fit at work, there are likely to be broader, negative implications for that individual’s
higher-order goals and/or self-concept (i.e., misfit between work experience and underlying
needs, such as being a successful or productive member of society). Workplaces can create jobs
and employment circumstances that facilitate goal engagement and self-concept-reinforcement
for older workers from diverse backgrounds. However, these interventions must be considered
alongside the influences of systemic oppression and inequity, and of other life domains,
discussed earlier. Individuals cannot “regulate away” or “through” all of these forces. In fact,
these forces shape the way that individuals appraise fit and engage in self-regulation, and our
models of successful aging at work must take such principles into account.
Models of successful aging assume that individuals are responsible for their own
development. They largely focus on how individuals use self-regulatory behaviors to overcome
limitations (e.g., as a function of age, life circumstances), rather than considering how limitations
exist and shape processes of situation appraisal and self-regulation themselves—let alone how
these forces (re)define “success” in aging. When we take such an individualistic and self-reliant
approach, we inadvertently create an exclusionary version of “successful aging”. Kooij and
colleagues (2020) provide a clear model in which we can address these past shortcomings for
future work. To do so is to truly embrace the principles of equifinality (i.e., many means/paths
leading to the same outcome) and multifinality (i.e., the same means/paths leading to different
outcomes) in our theories of aging, as we have purported to do for quite some time. We must
move away from an overreliance on agency and bring an understanding of constraints, context,
and intersectionality to the fore.
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... The multilevel theory of organizational behavior assumes that individuals' attitudes, motivations, and behaviors result from an interplay of personal and organizational factors (Kozlowski & Klein, 2000;Morgeson & Hofmann, 1999). This approach is increasingly emphasized in aging literature, especially for considering how the organizational context constraints and stimulates individual agency in successful aging at work (Henkens, 2022;Rauvola & Rudolph, 2020;Wang & Shultz, 2010;Zacher et al., 2018). However, it received little attention in age discrimination studies (as exceptions see, e.g., Kunze et al., 2011Kunze et al., , 2013Kunze et al., , 2021. ...
... Such meta-stereotyping (what older people think that others think of older people) has been shown to undermine selfefficacy and confidence, leading to work disengagement and self-discrimination Rothermund et al., 2021;Truxillo et al., 2015). Although difficult to detect, self-discrimination may profoundly affect successful aging at work and retirement decisions (Gaillard & Desmette, 2010;Rauvola & Rudolph, 2020;Vickerstaff & Van der Horst, 2021). ...
Pdf available at: Abstract: To fully understand the effects of age-related stereotypes in the workplace, we must consider how the various 'shades' of age discrimination develop and affect the behavior of employers and employees in the context of organizational relations. We contribute to the discussion on age-related stereotypes and age discrimination in the workplace initiated by Murphy & DeNisi (2021) by arguing that: (1) detecting and conceptualizing mechanisms of age discrimination can benefit from taking a multilevel organizational perspective; (2) age discrimination should not only be conceived as direct or ‘hard discrimination’, but also soft discrimination and self-discrimination, which are common yet mostly harder to detect; (3) taking a multilevel organizational perspective facilitates research into the dynamics of age-related stereotypes and discriminatory practices in the workplace from a complex-system perspective, i.e., how do they emerge as outcomes of complex, multilevel, and mutual interactions.
... The multilevel theory of organizational behavior assumes that individuals' attitudes, motivations, and behaviors result from an interplay of personal and organizational factors (Kozlowski & Klein, 2000;Morgeson & Hofmann, 1999). This approach is increasingly emphasized in aging literature, especially for considering how the organizational context constraints and stimulates individual agency in successful aging at work (Henkens, 2022;Rauvola & Rudolph, 2020;Wang & Shultz, 2010;Zacher et al., 2018). However, it received little attention in age discrimination studies (as exceptions see, e.g., Kunze et al., 2011Kunze et al., , 2013Kunze et al., , 2021. ...
... Such meta-stereotyping (what older people think that others think of older people) has been shown to undermine selfefficacy and confidence, leading to work disengagement and self-discrimination Rothermund et al., 2021;Truxillo et al., 2015). Although difficult to detect, self-discrimination may profoundly affect successful aging at work and retirement decisions (Gaillard & Desmette, 2010;Rauvola & Rudolph, 2020;Vickerstaff & Van der Horst, 2021). ...
To fully understand the effects of age-related stereotypes in the workplace, we must consider how the various 'shades' of age discrimination develop and affect the behavior of employers and employees in the context of organizational relations. We contribute to the discussion on age-related stereotypes and age discrimination in the workplace initiated by Murphy & DeNisi (2021) by arguing that: (1) detecting and conceptualizing mechanisms of age discrimination can benefit from taking a multilevel organizational perspective; (2) age discrimination should not only be conceived as direct or ‘hard discrimination’, but also soft discrimination and self-discrimination, which are common yet mostly harder to detect; (3) taking a multilevel organizational perspective facilitates research into the dynamics of age-related stereotypes and discriminatory practices in the workplace from a complex-system perspective, i.e., how do they emerge as outcomes of complex, multilevel, and mutual interactions.
... Similar issues emerge for seemingly "straightforward" focal variables such as occupation and health status as well, which deserve careful and inclusive design considerations such that meaningful variance is not discarded before it can even be detected. Diversity in adult development and in relation to work must be captured, and done in an intersectional, evidence-based way (Rauvola & Rudolph, 2020; see also Andrea et al., 2022;Gilmore-Bykovskyi et al., 2022;Katz & Calasanti, 2015). ...
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Among the many work (and life) characteristics of relevance to adult development and aging, various forms of control are some of the most extensively and diversely studied. Indeed, “control,” whether objectively held (i.e., “actual” control), perceived, or enacted through self-regulation, is a concept central to our understanding of person-environment interactions, development, and well-being within and across life domains. However, variability in conceptualization and analysis in the literature on control presents challenges to integration. To partially address these gaps, the present study sought to explore the effects of conceptual and analytical specification decisions (e.g., construct types, time, covariates) on observed control-well-being relationships in a large, age-diverse, longitudinal sample (Midlife in the United States I, II, and III datasets), providing a specification curve analysis (SCA) tutorial and guidance in the process. Results suggest that construct types and operationalizations, particularly predictor variables, have bearing on observed results, with certain types of control serving as better predictors of various forms of well-being than others. These findings and identified gaps are summarized to provide direction for theoretical clarification and reconciliation in the control and lifespan development literatures, construct selection and operationalization in future aging and work research, and inclusive, well-specified interventions to improve employee well-being.
... Control-related fit in organizations, particularly as they pertain to "actual" controlrelevant personal and contextual factors, will also require work to integrate traditional control perspectives with theories of organizational control. This aligns with Sitkin and colleagues' (2020) recent call for confluence between macro and "control recipient" perspectives (Sitkin et al., 2020) as well as Kooij and colleagues' (2020) multilevel model of successful aging at work (Kooij et al., 2020; see also Kellogg et al., 2020;Rauvola & Rudolph, 2020). Greater knowledge about the experience of control within organizations, and its implications for the aging CONTROL REVIEW 49 PRE-PRESS MANUSCRIPT workforce, will aid in developing and implementing practical and inclusive interventions and policies. ...
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Control is one of the most ubiquitous and fundamental concepts to the study of psychology, including to theory, research, and practice related to aging and work. Indeed, control constructs exist in many different forms (e.g., self-efficacy, job autonomy, locus of control), and they have been extensively linked to performance and well-being with age. This paper provides a review of age- and work-relevant theory and research pertaining to a variety of “actual,” perceived, and enacted control constructs. The paper seeks to fulfill three goals. First, we review predominant control constructs with respect to theory and research, considering their distinguishing and overlapping features, relationships with age- and work-relevant concerns, and areas of consensus and ambiguity. Second, we synthesize and organize our review findings into a work-focused “lifespan control framework” to guide theoretical revision, hypothesis formation, and construct choice/comparisons, and we provide recommendations to researchers for using this framework. Third and finally, we generate a focused research agenda for impactful studies of age, control, and work. The concept of control has contributed to our knowledge of and practice with work-relevant processes, and this review aims to aid in integration, organization, and innovation to move the study of age, control, and work forward.
... Whereas the process model of successful aging at work is more concrete and comprehensive than previous conceptualizations of successful aging, it has been criticized for being "overly agentic" due to its emphasis on self-regulation processes (Rauvola & Rudolph, 2020). For instance, jobs with low resources, such as decision autonomy, may not provide sufficient opportunities to improve P-E fit. ...
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The goals of this paper are to review theoretical and empirical research on motivation and healthy aging at work and to outline directions for future research and practical applications in this area. To achieve these goals, we first consider the World Health Organization's (WHO) definition of healthy aging in the context of paid employment and lifespan development in the work domain. Second, we describe contemporary theoretical models and cumulative empirical findings on age, motivation, and health and well-being at work, and we critically discuss to what extent they are consistent with the WHO definition of healthy aging. Finally, we propose several directions for future research in the work context that are aligned with the WHO definition of healthy aging, and we describe a number of interventions related to the design of work environments and individual strategies to promote the motivation for healthy aging at work.
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The fluid boundaries between work and family life and the dynamic ways these domains are shaped by communication technology represent an important area in work-family research. However, surprisingly little is known about how family contact at work affects functioning in the work role—especially how these dynamics may change and unfold over time. Drawing on longitudinal data from the Canadian Work, Stress, and Health Study (2011–2017), the present study examines the association between family contact and family-to-work conflict. We find that increases in family contact over time are positively associated with more family-to-work conflict, but gender and three salient family-related conditions—financial strain, providing care for family members, and difficulties with children—are key moderators of this focal relationship. We discover that the focal association is significantly stronger for women and for those with elevated levels of financial strain, caregiving responsibilities, and difficulties with children over time. We discuss these results by integrating border theory with stress amplification and the cost of caring.
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Although aging workforces result in numerous practical challenges for organizations and societies, little research has focused on successful aging at work. The limited existent research has generated rather diverse conceptualizations of successful aging at work, which are often broad and difficult to operationalize in practice. Therefore, to advance research and practice, we offer a specific and practical conceptualization of successful aging at work by developing a process model, which identifies relevant antecedents and mechanisms. In particular, we define successful aging at work as the proactive maintenance of, or adaptive recovery (after decline) to, high levels of ability and motivation to continue working among older workers. We also argue that proactive efforts to maintain, or adaptive efforts to recover and restore, high ability and motivation to continue working result from a self-regulation process that involves goal engagement and disengagement strategies to maintain, adjust, and restore person-environment fit. Further, we propose that at various levels (i.e., person, job, work group, organization, and society) more distal factors function as antecedents of this self-regulation process, with age-related bias and discrimination potentially operating at each level. Finally, we offer a roadmap for future research and practical applications.
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Work and family are highly intertwined for many individuals. Despite this, individual-level strategies for achieving effectiveness and satisfaction across work and family roles have not received sufficient attention. We address this issue by conceptualizing work-family balance from an action regulation perspective as the successful joint pursuit of work and family goals. Building on insights from the work-family literature, action regulation theory, and multiple goals research, we propose a theoretical model that explains how people can jointly attain work and family goals by using four action strategies (i.e., allocating resources, changing resources and barriers, sequencing goals, and revising goals). We address the conditions under which each strategy is used, depending on the malleability of resources and barriers for goal attainment, time to deadline of goals, as well as feedback and monitoring of progress across work and family goals. Our model offers new insights and research implications regarding work-family balance and helps develop practical interventions that result in improved management of the work-family interface.
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Based on optimal foraging theory, we propose a metric that allows evaluating the goodness of goal systems, that is, systems comprising multiple goals with facilitative and conflicting interrelations. This optimal foraging theory takes into account expectancy and value, as well as opportunity costs, of foraging. Applying this approach to goal systems provides a single index of goodness of a goal system for goal striving. Three quasi-experimental studies (N = 277, N = 145, and N = 210) provide evidence for the usefulness of this approach for goal systems comprising between 3 to 10 goals. Results indicate that persons with a more optimized goal-system are more conscientious and open to new experience, are more likely to represent their goals in terms of means (i.e., adopt a process focus), and are more satisfied and engaged with their goals. Persons with a suboptimal goal system tend to switch their goals more often and thereby optimize their goal system. We discuss limitations as well as possible future directions of this approach. (PsycINFO Database Record
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As the average age of the working population continues to rise, it becomes increasingly important for organizations to understand the factors that contribute to the maintenance of a healthy and effective work life for older workers. One important factor for older workers is the relationship between changing motives and the role this plays with their lives both within and outside of work. This paper aims to provide insight on this issue by examining the role work motives play in the experience of work-family conflict (WFC) in older workers. In order to achieve this, this paper first gives an overview of the current state of the literature on WFC across the life span, with a focus on older individuals. Second, theories (social-emotional selectivity theory; selection, optimization, and compensation; emotion regulation) will be discussed that help explain how shifts in life, work, and social desires impact the importance of work and family roles in later life. Finally, the paper will examine how the empirical findings on WFC and work motives in older workers have practical implications for organizations hoping to create a healthy working environment for their older employees.
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This review sets extreme jobs in the context of the institutional, occupational, organizational and individual drivers of long hours and work intensification and identifies the consequences for gender equality, human sustainability and long-term productivity. We suggest that extreme jobs derive not from the ‘nature’ of managerial and professional work but from working practices and occupational discourses which have developed to suit the gendered norms of ‘ideal workers’. These practices and discourses encourage long hours rather than working-hours choices. Extreme jobs extend the gendered division of labour and increase the separation of work and non-work spheres; they are a structure of gender inequality. This review suggests that future research should seek to identify alternative but business-neutral working practices which contest the extreme ‘nature’ of managerial and professional work, measure the social value of non-work activities and deepen our understanding of the personal and social significance of non-work identities other than motherhood, and disentangle situational motivation, work passion and workaholism as motives for devoting long hours to work so that impacts on well-being and productivity can be more clearly understood.
People seek out situations that “fit,” but the concept of fit is not well understood. We introduce State Authenticity as Fit to the Environment (SAFE), a conceptual framework for understanding how social identities motivate the situations that people approach or avoid. Drawing from but expanding the authenticity literature, we first outline three types of person–environment fit: self-concept fit, goal fit, and social fit. Each type of fit, we argue, facilitates cognitive fluency, motivational fluency, and social fluency that promote state authenticity and drive approach or avoidance behaviors. Using this model, we assert that contexts subtly signal social identities in ways that implicate each type of fit, eliciting state authenticity for advantaged groups but state inauthenticity for disadvantaged groups. Given that people strive to be authentic, these processes cascade down to self-segregation among social groups, reinforcing social inequalities. We conclude by mapping out directions for research on relevant mechanisms and boundary conditions.
In the current article, we build on research from vocational psychology, multicultural psychology, intersectionality, and the sociology of work to construct an empirically testable Psychology of Working Theory (PWT). Our central aim is to explain the work experiences of all individuals, but particularly people near or in poverty, people who face discrimination and marginalization in their lives, and people facing challenging work-based transitions for which contextual factors are often the primary drivers of the ability to secure decent work. The concept of decent work is defined and positioned as the central variable within the theory. A series of propositions is offered concerning (a) contextual predictors of securing decent work, (b) psychological and economic mediators and moderators of these relations, and (c) outcomes of securing decent work. Recommendations are suggested for researchers seeking to use the theory and practical implications are offered concerning counseling, advocacy, and public policy.
abstract Poverty is a powerful factor that can alter lifetime developmental trajectories in cognitive, socioemotional, and physical health outcomes. Most explanatory work on the underlying psychological processes of how poverty affects development has focused on parental investment and parenting practices, principally responsiveness. Our primary objective in this article was to describe a third, complementary pathway—chronic stress and coping—that may also prove helpful in understanding the developmental impacts of early childhood poverty throughout life. Disadvantaged children are more likely than their wealthier peers to confront a wide array of physical stressors (e.g., substandard housing, chaotic environments) and psychosocial stressors (e.g., family turmoil, separation from adult caregivers). As exposure to stressors accumulates, physiological response systems that are designed to handle relatively infrequent, acute environmental demands are overwhelmed. Chronic cumulative stressors also disrupt the self-regulatory processes that help children cope with external demands.