The contact hypothesis and the effects of intergenerational contact on adolescents' attitudes and stereotypes toward older people



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Texas Tech University


The literature reviewing the efficacy of intergenerational programs to promote more positive attitudes and stereotypes regarding older persons and the aging process has resulted in contradictory findings. These discrepant findings are due in part to a lack of consistency in how constructs are operationalized and measured as well as a lack of careful consideration of the intergenerational context. In an effort to remedy the above concerns, the present study carefully operationalized constructs and adopted the principles of the contact hypothesis to inform and structure a cross-age program.

In a pretest-posttest design, 63 adolescents (age 11 to 13) were recruited from a public middle school in a Midwestern state and randomly assigned to three experimental conditions (cross-age contact, didactic instruction, and control). Adolescents' global attitudes and stereotypes regarding older persons as well as their life satisfaction were assessed.

Overall, adolescents demonstrated positive attitudes toward older people. Relative to the control group, the attitudes in the contact group became more positive. Older person's attitudes toward younger people also became more positive.



Attitude (Psychology), Interpersonal communication, Teenagers, Older people, Public opinion