For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Emotional Competencies Across Adulthood: State of Knowledge and Implications for the Work Context"

by Doerwald, Friederike; Scheibe, Susanne; Zacher, Hannes; Van Yperen, Nico W (2016)


It has been proposed that emotional competencies are subject to age-related increases and, thus, represent strengths of older workers. However, this assumption is based on limited evidence for positive age differences in one particular emotional competency, namely emotion regulation. Age-related differences in two other key emotional competencies, emotion perception and emotion understanding, have been largely ignored. The present review systematically examines the extant literature on the associations between age and the competencies to perceive, understand, and regulate emotions. For each competency, we further distinguish whether it concerns own emotions or those of others. We identified 195 studies that met our inclusion criteria. Overall, we found moderate support for the proposed age-related advantage in emotional competencies. Regarding the working lifespan, findings suggest that older workers generally function equally well as, or slightly better than young workers on most emotional competencies (i.e., perceiving, understanding and regulating own emotions, and understanding others’ emotions). For perceiving others’ emotions, there was robust evidence of lower performance beyond age 65, yet deficits did not show consistently for middle-aged adults (i.e., most older workers). For regulating others’ emotions, evidence was too limited to draw conclusions. We discuss implications of age differences in emotional competencies for work processes and outcomes and outline future research directions.

Key Passage

For the working lifespan, we can safely conclude that older workers generally function equally well as young workers on most emotional competencies, and in some areas slightly better (i.e., regulating one’s own emotions and understanding others’ emotions). For those working beyond retirement age, the evidence suggests similar trends, except for some deficits in other-related emotion perception that may become apparent in workers above age 65. In light of age-related declines in physiological and cognitive capacities, these age trends suggest that on the whole, emotional competencies indeed represent a resource of older workers. (p.170)


Retirement, Ageing, Emotional Competence, Mental Decline, Emotion Regulation, Mental Development


Psychological Centrality of Work

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