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Life-History Related Differences in Possible Selves in Very Old Age

The impact of early life events that take place under specific historical and societal circumstances on adult development have rarely been investigated in old age. We examined whether having started a family in young adulthood was related to the contents of possible selves generated by women aged 85 to 100+ in the Berlin Aging Study (N = 129; M age = 93 years). Health-related possible selves dominated in the entire sample. However, mothers (n = 79) and lifetime childless women (n = 50) differed in their endorsement of family- and friend-related possible selves. Contrary to expectations, childless women mentioned more family-related themes, while mothers addressed more friendship-related themes. Despite these differences both groups of women reported equally high levels of well-being. These findings indicate that starting a family in young adulthood still has an influence on the self up until very old age and that these distinct pathways can still lead to similar aging success. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved) (from the journal abstract)