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14 - Social Motivation across the Life Span

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2009

Frieder R. Lang
Martin Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenburg, Germany
Karen L. Fingerman
Purdue University, Indiana
Frieder R. Lang
Institute of Psychology, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Brandbergweg 23A, D-06099 Halle a. d. Saale, Germany
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The chapter addresses mechanisms and processes underlying the life span ontogeny of social motivation. Six propositions on the life span development of personal relationships are presented. From birth to death individuals are active agents, who coregulate the structure, function, and quality of their social worlds in accordance with their age-specific needs and resources. An individual's developmental resources determine the lifelong salience and outcomes of two kinds of basic goal commitments, a striving for social agency and a striving for belongingness in one's social world. The interplay and dynamic between these two sets of goals determines an individual's interpersonal functioning and competence. A goal-resource-congruence model of social self-regulation suggests that individuals may benefit from matching their social strivings to their resources and potentials.

Why do individuals seek to maintain personal relationships over time? Few issues appear as self-evident and yet at the same time inexplicable. At birth everyone has a mother and a father. Most people have siblings, uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces. Very rarely do people grow up without an intimate partner, a close friend, or acquaintances. It seems impossible to imagine a well-functioning society without the networks of strong and weak ties that transmit social information, sanction desirable or undesirable behaviors, and provide a social backup in times of misery (Fiske, 1992; Granovetter, 1973; Parsons, 1961; Wiese, 1955). An individual's personal network of relationships constitutes a complex structure and is as much an outcome as it is a determinant of behavioral development.

Growing Together
Personal Relationships Across the Life Span
, pp. 341 - 367
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2003

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