A multimodal approach to ageism: Understanding predictors of hostile ageism, benevolent ageism, and overall ageist attitudes

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University of New Brunswick


The purpose of this study was to investigate predictors of ageist attitudes. Several theories have been postulated as to why ageism occurs (i.e., contact theory, social identity theory [SIT], terror management theory [TMT], modernization theory); however, many researchers have failed to examine these multiple theories in one model, and failed to tease apart overall ageism from its benevolent and hostile forms. Participants (N = 389) were recruited from university psychology classes and from the community via social media to complete an online survey. Demographic characteristics and contact measures were assessed using self-generated questionnaires. In addition, measures of personality, SIT, TMT, and modernization theory were administered. Also, measures of COVID-19 attitudes were administered to examine the influence of the pandemic on overall, benevolent, and hostile ageist attitudes. The results of hierarchical linear regressions found that higher scores on overall ageist attitudes were predicted by being younger, cisgender male, having lower scores on quality of present intergenerational contact, Agreeableness, Openness, and Extraversion, and higher scores on ageing anxiety and modernization. In turn, being younger, cisgender male, having lower scores on Openness, and higher scores on religiosity, fear of death and modernization were significant predictors of benevolent ageist attitudes. Lastly, being younger, having lower scores on present quality of intergenerational contact and Agreeableness, and higher scores on religiosity and modernization were significant predictors of hostile ageist attitudes. As well, significant correlations were found among the three types of ageist attitudes and the COVID-19 measures.