Personality Development: Is Accepting the
Past Associated with Less Negative Affectivity?
The final stage in Erik Erikson's theory of development is
ego integrity versus despair. This stage may occur at age 65 or
older, and can be viewed as a stage in which a person reflects
back on his or her life. The person may accept his or her life
and be happy, or the person could view his or her life as
unacceptable and experience dispair.
Santor and Zuroff (1994) found that a measure of accepting
the past was positively correlated with a measure of ego
integrity. This finding may suggest that accepting the past is an
important component in achieving ego integrity.
If accepting the past is important for personality
development and adjustment, it stands to reason that a greater
acceptance of the past may be associated with a less negative
Santor and Zuroff (1994) found that greater acceptance of
the past was associated with less negative affectivity.
Moreover, Rylands and Rickwood (2001) found that greater
difficulty in accepting the past was associated with more
negative affectivity. (1)
However, we cannot make causal conclusions from the
above findings. There are several possible explanations for the
findings. First, accepting one's past may foster a less negative
mood. Second, a more negative mood may make it more
difficult for people to accept the past. Third, some third
variable may cause both negative affectivity and acceptance of
the past, and there is no causal relationship between negative
affectivity and acceptance of the past.
1. See the articles for information concerning other findings
Rylands, K. J., & Rickwood, D. J. (2001). Ego-integrity
versus ego-dispair: The effect of "accepting the past" on
depression in older women. International Journal of Aging
and Human Development, 53, 75-89.
Santor, D. A., Zuroff, D. C. (1994). Depressive symptoms:
Effects of negative affectivity and failing to accept the
past. Journal of Personality Assessment, 63, 294-312.