The Psychological Effects of Considering a Move Into Residential Care: An Age-Related Study
Leggett, Sarah Jean Elizabeth
This study aimed to examine the psychological effects of considering a move into residential care. It sought to explore the wistful ‘prefactual’ and ‘counterfactual’ evaluation of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ scenarios. Sanna, Carter, and Small’s (2006) ‘Time, Environment, Motivation, Personality, and Outcome’ (TEMPO) model was applied to investigate whether individuals moving closer in time to a prefactual scenario (a hypothetical vignette about two older adults facing a move towards residential care) express increased prefactual/counterfactual statements. Additional hypotheses explored the impact of personality and outcome (mood as input) factors on prefactual/counterfactual statement generation. This study employed a naturalistic experimental design. The main grouping variable was each participant’s life stage (working-age adults or older adults). These two groups were selected to represent two distinct stages along the TEMPO timeline. The dependent variable involved the number of written prefactual/counterfactual statements. In total, 33 working-age adults and 33 older adults completed the study. Each wrote what they thought could be better or worse about each character’s position in the prefactual scenario. They also completed relevant demographic information and information about personal circumstances, along with a range of personality measures. Independent-Samples T Tests revealed a significantly higher number of prefactual/counterfactual statements generated by the older adult group for the prefactual scenario. Effect sizes were medium to large. However, tests of personal scenarios, and the effects of personality and outcome did not reach significance. The implications of these findings, in relation to research and clinical work, were discussed. This was particularly in relation to furthering the investigation of prefactual and counterfactual generation and in relation to the significant emotional implications of considering a move away from independent living. The limitations of this research were discussed and related to future research possibilities, particularly concerning the potential impact of prefactual and counterfactual thinking on behaviour.