tress (see Heatherton and Baumeister, 1996). Thus, it is people who feel personally deficient or who experience threats to the self who are most likely to break their diets, spend excessively, or binge drink.
The literature on self-concept and aging suggests that despite objective threats to self, from physical disabilities to ageism, older people are surprisingly satisfied with their self-views (Greve and Wentura, 2003). Discrepancies between ideal and actual selves, for example, are smaller than those observed in younger people, when groups with mean ages of 19.3, 46.0, and 73.4 are compared (Ryff, 1991). Studies of well-being also suggest that aging is associated with less interest in personal growth (Ryff, 1995). In other words, aging is associated with greater satisfaction with the status quo and less interest in improving the self. One experience sampling study also revealed less variability in self-descriptions in everyday life (Charles and Pasupathi, 2003). Thus, because negative affect is an important trigger of self-regulation failure, it may be that older adults succeed at self-regulation more often than younger adults because they do not experience as much dissatisfaction. This hypothesis further reinforces the idea that although initiating change may be more difficult for older adults, maintaining change may be easier.
It is also possible that the relation between negative emotions and self-regulation is due to inadequate coping and the possibility that people use alcohol, drugs, or food as a coping strategy. Accordingly, it may be that older adults are less prone to self-regulation failure because they use strategies that minimize negative affect in their daily lives (Mather, in this volume). It is unclear whether putative self-regulatory differences observed as a function of age are due to changes in cognitive skills or capacities or to changes in the degree of experienced negative affect. Considered together, it is apparent that the more positive emotional experiences of older adults may discourage initial change but serve to enhance any changes that do occur. Research should examine the general role of affect in self-regulation, with an emphasis on how emotional changes that occur during aging may be associated with initiation or maintenance. Moreover, additional research should examine how emotional processes are involved in change that adds new behaviors (such as exercise) as opposed to change that eliminates them (such as poor health habits).
A vast literature demonstrates the role that efficacious beliefs play in instigating and maintaining change in young people (Bandura, 2001), and there is additional evidence that they play a similar role in older adults. Self-efficacy and personal beliefs have long been known to play critical roles in self-regulation (Bandura, 1989, 1997; Mischel, Cantor, and Feldman, 1996;