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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Lebenswissen­schaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Psychologie

Aging in Context: Linking Co-Regulation to Variability (CoReAge)


Concept paper for a CRC/TRansRegio

Aging in Context: Linking Co-Regulation to Variability (CoReAge)


Chairs: Frieder R. Lang (Erlangen-Nürnberg), Klaus Rothermund (Jena), Denis Gerstorf (Berlin)



One of the hallmarks of aging is its heterogeneity both between persons and within persons. Such diversity is an inherent part of the variability that occurs within and between contexts of aging such as family, work, and health care. Moreover, age-associated changes often show different trajectories between each domain of functioning in the same individual: An old person may become physically impaired, but still perform well cognitively, or vice versa. For instance, age-related stereotypes may prevent an older woman from staying active in the work force and from developing new job-related competencies, while, at the same time, her experience and knowledge as a member of the parish council may be highly valued. The proposed Collaborative Research Center/TRansRegio CoReAge is built on the assumption that aging variability reflects co-regulation processes between individuals and their social contexts. Co-regulation involves the dynamic and mutual interplay between at least two individuals over time, or between individuals within social aggregates, such as the family, neighborhoods, or teams of individuals. For example, within spousal relationships, the partners’ trajectories of wellbeing may synchronize or diverge over time. At an aggregate level, work or health care contexts may change in response to the needs or demands of the aging process of some individuals, and vice versa. Thus, co-regulation serves as a core concept to examine, explain, and eventually modify determinants and processes of individual aging within their context. Up to now, existing models of aging processes have either taken a decidedly individualistic or an environmental approach, and have remained mute with regard to the co-regulation processes between individuals and their interactions within specific social contexts in the course of aging.

The co-regulation perspective will help us to better understand key questions of aging: How do aging individuals interact with each other (interpersonal contexts) and within greater social aggregates (organizational contexts) in shaping, creating, negotiating, and evaluating aging outcomes? How does the resulting variability of aging processes reciprocally determine variation in contexts? How do processes of aging in one context affect outcomes and aging processes in other contexts? CoReAge will examine determinants and processes of contextual co-regulation that shape the direction and course of aging. All projects aim at identifying determinants and processes of co-regulation between individuals and their immediate interpersonal or organizational social contexts. To achieve this aim, research groups at the Universities of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Jena, Berlin, and Leipzig join forces and collaborate with several non-university research institutions. CoReAge has four major substantive research foci: (A) Determinants of Interpersonal Co-Regulation (e.g., views on aging, age differences between interaction partners, network composition, roles, goals, and expectations). (B) Processes of Interpersonal Co-Regulation (e.g., counter-regulation of affect, negotiating and synchronizing goals, habituation to dyadic stress, empathy transfer), (C) Determinants of Organizational Co-Regulation (e.g., age inequality and age discrimination, age diversity, age climate, structures of communication and interaction), and (D) Processes of Organizational Co-Regulation (e.g., decision processes, negotiating views on aging, mobilizing social support and resources, dynamic synchronization of affect and motivation). A fifth methodological research focus aims at developing, refining, and applying currently available advanced methodology for studying co-regulation so as to test the theoretical predictions more precisely than was previously possible.

The TRansRegio includes projects ranging from occupational contexts in midlife (from 40 to 65 years) and co-regulation in post-occupational contexts (from 60 to 85 years) to projects on co-regulative caregiving and terminal contexts in late life (the last years, months, and weeks before death). CoReAge will generate a new knowledge base on how contexts of aging and co-regulation can ultimately be modified towards improved positive outcomes of aging. Such goals will be achieved with an integrated and innovative combination of experimental methods, process-oriented ambulatory assessments, and long-term longitudinal studies that integrate multiple-method approaches tied to existing large-scale panels such as the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), the German Ageing Survey (DEAS), and the Berlin Aging Studies (BASE and BASE-II).