Age Differences in Self-Continuity in Germany and the United States: The role of Temporal Direction, Temporal Distance, and Demographics


Objectives: Previous research suggests that self-continuity is higher in older ages, especially for more distant intervals. This study extends prior work by examining age and temporal patterns of self-continuity in two adult life-span samples from Germany and the U.S.

Method: German data (n=1,656, aged 18-93) were drawn from the German Socio-Economic Panel. U.S. data (n=230, aged 18-87) were collected through a survey research firm. Preregistered multi-level analyses examined the roles of age, temporal direction (past/future), and temporal distance (1/5/10 years) and explored the role of demographic covariates.

Results: In both datasets, self-continuity was higher in older ages and decreased with distance from the present, especially for the past. Interaction effects among age, temporal distance, and temporal directions were complex and varied across samples. Self-continuity was higher among married and more educated German participants and more affluent U.S. participants, but age differences remained robust when including demographic covariates.

Discussion: Findings replicate prior evidence for age-related increments in self-continuity but suggest that patterns vary by temporal distance and direction and may be sensitive to contextual factors.

Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences