Expanding Benevolent Ageism: Replicating Attitudes of Overaccommodation to Older Men

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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Background: Older adults are stereotyped in a paternalistic manner (warm, but incompetent), deserving of assistance regardless of their need; however, little is known about how gender contextualizes these attitudes. The purpose of this study was to extend previous work that examined the malleability of the paternalistic older adult stereotype using a two-part experimental vignette. The goals of the current study included: (1) to examine attitudes of benevolent ageist behavior toward a male target, (2) to confirm whether attributions made toward an older male target change if they defy or confirm the paternalistic stereotype, and (3) to examine the distinct roles of age and gender on an act of benevolent ageism. Method: In prior work, a female target was offered unnecessary assistance, which is replicated in the current study with a male target. The age (young vs. old), response (accepting vs. declining assistance), and gender (male vs. female) of the target were manipulated and then rated by a young adult sample (N = 698). Results: Our findings replicated earlier work in that overaccommodative behaviors were endorsed more so for the older target than the younger target, which corroborates support for the Stereotype Content Model in that older adults are viewed paternalistically. Additionally, the older male target and the older female target were viewed differently when they respectively defied the paternalistic stereotype indicating distinctness between benevolent ageism and benevolent sexism. Conclusions: These findings add to the growing body of benevolent ageism literature and highlight the intersection of gender and age.


Published online: 24 Aug 2021.

Research for this article was accomplished when Michael Vale was part of the faculty at The University of Akron.



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