Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Age Differences in Identity Processing Styles and Self-Consciousness: A Moderation Analysis and Examination of Ageism

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Yiwei Chen (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Mike Zickar (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Marie Tisak (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Charles Stelle (Committee Member)


The present study examined age differences in identity processing styles and self-consciousness factors as they relate to one’s susceptibility to ageism. Utilizing Whitbourne’s Identity Process Theory (IPT), the goal of the proposed work was to: (I) examine age differences in identity processing styles (assimilation, accommodation, and balance) from a lifespan developmental perspective, (II) examine the role that age and identity processing styles play in one’s susceptibility to ageism, (III) assess age-related changes in self-consciousness factors (insight, self-reflection, and public self-consciousness) across the adult lifespan, and (IV) determine how self-consciousness factors moderate the relationships between age and identity processing styles. Self-report data were collected in-person and online from 564 adults (69% female) between the ages of 18-89. Results showed full support for the identity process hypotheses demonstrating that identity assimilation increased with age, identity accommodation decreased with age, and identity balance was not age-related. In addition, full support was found for the ageism hypotheses: age and identity processing styles all significantly predicted ageism. Age was negatively associated with ageism. Identity assimilation and identity accommodation were positively related to ageism, while identity balance was negatively associated with ageism. Full support was also found for the self-consciousness hypotheses showing that insight increased with age, self-reflection decreased with age, and public self-consciousness decreased across the adult lifespan. Finally, partial support was found for the moderation hypotheses such that self-reflection had a significant moderation effect on the relationship between age and identity accommodation; older adults were more likely to adopt an accommodative style with higher levels of self-reflection. Findings are discussed with implications for future research in well-being and successful aging.