Facing the Future: Generativity, Stagnation, Intended Legacies, and Well-Being in Later Life

  • Nicky J. NewtonEmail author
  • Preet K. Chauhan
  • Jessica L. Pates


Older adults often contemplate the kind of legacy they would like to leave for subsequent generations. Research provides some evidence for relationships between expressions of intended legacies and generativity (caring for the next generation), and how generativity is related to well-being. The current study aims to expand the literature concerning the role of generativity and its counterpart, stagnation, in the likelihood and frequency of expressions of intended legacies (what individuals wish to leave behind when they die), and to parse each factor’s relationship to well-being among older women. Data were drawn from the combined 2014 data collections from the Radcliffe College Class of 1964 and the Women’s Life Paths Study (N = 204; Mage = 68.93). We used newly developed Q-sort measures of generativity and stagnation, and coded legacy from responses to open-ended questions. This study assessed three types of legacy: one that is meaningful in a personal way (personal), a contribution to the common good (broader), and a combination of personal and broader (composite). Although both generativity and stagnation showed some initial association with personal and total legacy, only stagnation was consistently negatively associated with the likelihood of expressing a legacy, frequency of legacy expression, and well-being. The contribution of psychosocial factors to legacy expression, and the utility of examining generativity and stagnation separately, is discussed.


Legacy Generativity Stagnation Well-being Older women 



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicky J. Newton
    • 1
    Email author
  • Preet K. Chauhan
    • 1
  • Jessica L. Pates
    • 1
  1. 1.Wilfrid Laurier UniversityWaterlooCanada

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