The gain-loss dynamic in lifespan development: Implications for change in self and personality during old and very old age

This chapter explores the utility of the gain-loss proposition of lifespan psychology (P. Baltes, 1987) as an explanatory heuristic for change in various aspects of self and personality in adulthood and old age. Underlying the gain-loss proposition is the suggestion that developmental change is not only one of growth (gain) but also always involves some loss of functional efficacy. Although widely accepted as a useful metalevel developmental concept, empirical work specifically devised to examine the gain-loss dynamic is less prevalent. Most studies of self and personality functioning in adulthood and old age focus on a single dimension of change (gain, maintenance, or loss). the Baltes proposition, however, points to the advantages of taking a broad systemic approach whereby the dialectics among dimensions of gain, maintenance, and loss are considered. The final section of the chapter focuses on such a systemic approach. It examines the idea that the transition from the third to the fourth age is characterized by the breakdown of systems that contribute to a positive ratio of gain over loss. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved) (from the chapter)