American Sociological Association

The Age-Graded Nature of Advice: Distributional Patterns and Implications for Life Meaning

Drawing from life course, social networks, and developmental social psychology scholarship, this article considers how advice transmission varies across age groups and examines the age-contingent associations between advice-giving and life meaning. Binomial and ordered logistic regression using the 2006 Portraits of American Life Study (n = 2,583) reveal that adults in their twenties are most likely to report offering advice to multiple social targets. Notably, however, the connection between advice-giving and life meaning is most pronounced for late-middle age adults—even as changes during this part of the life course reduce the odds of advice exchange. Consistent with developmental theory and the mattering perspective, we argue that advice is a mechanism for contributing to others’ welfare and for cultivating life meaning. Yet opportunity structures for advice transmission also shift over life course, leaving adults in late-middle age and beyond with fewer opportunities to engage in such generative practices.

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Markus H. Schafer and Laura Upenieks





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