Adversity, Time, and Well-Being: A Longitudinal Analysis of Time Perspective in Adulthood

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Abstract

Despite the prominence of time in influential aging theories and the ubiquity of stress across the life span, research addressing how time perspective (TP) and adversity are associated with well-being across adulthood is rare. Examining the role of TP in coping with life events over the life span would be best accomplished after large-scale population-based exposure to a specific event, with repeated assessments to examine within- and between-person differences over time. A national sample aged 18–91 years (N = 722, M = 49.4 years) was followed for 3 years after the September 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks. Respondents completed assessments of 9/11-related television (TV) exposure 9–21 days after the attacks, temporal disintegration 2 months post-9/11, and TP, ongoing stress, and well-being at 12, 24, and 36 months post-9/11. Results provided support for measurement invariance of TP across time and across age. Early 9/11-related TV exposure was significantly associated with greater temporal disintegration. Temporal disintegration and ongoing stress, in turn, were associated with between- and within-person variation in past TP. This effect was qualified by an age interaction that indicated a stronger relationship between ongoing stress and past TP for younger compared with older adults. Past and future TP were significantly and independently related to individual differences and within-person variation in psychological well-being, regardless of age. Future work should incorporate adversity as an important correlate of TP across adulthood.

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