Influences of Individualism and Collectivism on the Perception of the Elderly and Support for Social Programs

 

Dean D. VonDras, Ph.D.

University of Wisconsin-Green Bay

 

Presented at the Gerontological Society of America annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, November, 2006.

 

Introduction

Previous research has indicated that stereotyping may reflect ego protective as well as social identity functions (Snyder & Miene, 1994).Potentially, in the area of public policy, stereotypes of the aged may lead to an erosion of support for programs benefiting the elderly (Binstock, 1985).Thus this research explored the influence of sociocultural orientations on the perception of older adults and support for legislation to bolster social programs for the elderly.In accord with orientations of individualism and collectivism (Triandis, 1995), the expectation was that higher individualism would be associated with greater negative stereotypy of the elderly and diminished endorsement of legislation benefiting the elderly, whereas higher collectivism would be associated with more positive stereotypy of the elderly and enhanced endorsement of potential legislation benefiting the elderly.

 

Method

The sample included 196 individuals ranging in age from 18 to 55 years (Mean = 20.76, SD = 4.67).Participants were predominantly female (male to female ratio is 29:167) and white (181 white, 2 Hispanic, 10 Asian, and 1 African American).Participants rated stereotypical characteristics of older adults using the positive and negative stereotypes reported by Schmitt and Boland (1986), completed measures assessing horizontal and vertical aspects of individualism and collectivism (Triandis, 1995), and rated their support for items referencing potential legislation to enhance funding of social programs for the elderly.

 

Results

In support of expectations, results of partial-correlational analyses controlling for age, gender, and ethnicity indicated significant associations between Total Collectivism score and positive stereotypes of older adults (r = .32, p < .001).As shown in the Table, collectivism was also found to positively influence endorsement of legislation to aid older adultsíhealth care and social security retirement benefits.Subsequent multivariate procedures were conducted on ratings of support for legislation to benefit the elderly.These analyses entered age, gender (male = 1, female = 2), and ethnicity (coded as 1 = white, 0 = all others) before the entry of Individualism and Collectivism, and the Individualism by Collectivism Interaction term.Results of MANOVA procedures suggested a significant Individualism by Collectivism Interaction, F(5, 170) = 4.42, p < .001, partial-eta squared = .12.Follow-up analyses at the univariate level suggested an Individualism by Collectivism Interaction on the question suggesting an increase in governmental spending programs, F(1, 174) = 9.46, p < .002, partial-eta squared = .05.Similarly, on the question concerning increasing spending on health care of older adults an Individualism by Collectivism Interaction was observed, F(1, 174) = 14.04, p < .001, partial-eta squared = .05.Further, on the question of increasing financial aid for prescriptions there was an Individualism by Collectivism Interaction noted, F(1, 174) = 14.19, p < .001, partial-eta squared = .08.On the question of increasing social security retirement benefits, the Individualism by Collectivism Interaction was neared criterion, F(1, 174) = 3.02, p < .09, partial-eta squared = .02. Finally, on the question of increasing private retirement pensions an Individualism by Collectivism Interaction was detected, F(1, 174) = 8.76, p < .003, partial-eta squared = .04.†† Graphic representations of these interactive effects are shown in the panels A through E of the Figure.

 

Conclusion

These findings suggest sociocultural orientations of Individualism and Collectivism to interactively moderate stereotypical characterizations of older adults, as well as support for potential legislation that would benefit the elderly.In general, participants high in collectivism were more likely to perceive older adults in positive ways, and participants high in individualism and low in collectivism were least likely to report support for legislation to enhance funding of social programs for the elderly.

 

References

Binstock, R. H.(1986).Public policy and the elderly.Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 19, 115-143.

Schmitt, D. F., & Boland, S. M.(1986).Structure of perceptions of older adults:Evidence for multiple stereotypes.Psychology and Aging, 1, 255-260.

Snyder, M., & Miene, P. K.(1994).Stereotyping of the elderly :A functional approach.British Journal of Social Psychology, Special Issue:Stereotypes: Structure, function and process, 33, 63-82.

Triandis, H. C.(1995).Individualism & Collectivism.San Francisco:Westview Press.

 

Table.Partial-correlations of Total Collectivism and Total Individualism Scores with Ratings of Positive and Negative Trait Characteristics and Endorsement of Legislation to Aid the Elderly, Controlling for Age, Gender and Ethnicity.

 

 

 

††††††††† Variable

Total Individualism Score

Total Collectivism Score

 

Rating of older adultsí positive characteristics

.05

.32***

 

Rating of older adultsí negative characteristics

.12

.08

 

How likely are you to support legislation to increase government spending for programs to serve elderly?

-.04

.11

 

How likely are to support legislation to increase financial assistance for older adultsí health care?

-.01

.15*

 

How likely are you to support legislation to increase financial assistance for older adultsí prescriptions?

-.01

.11

 

How likely are you to support legislation to increase amount of social security retirement pension per year?

.10

.18**

 

How likely are you to support legislation to increase amount of private retirement pension each year?

.10

.10

 

* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001

 

 

Figure. Representations of Univariate Effects of Individualism and Collectivism on Ratings Endorsing Legislation to Benefit the Elderly.