ogy literature that being the target of discrimination is stressful (Crocker, Major, and Steele, 1998). This stress may be associated with numerous physical health problems, including shortened life expectancy. However, the evidence on mental health is more ambiguous (see Richeson and Shelton, in this volume). For example, decades of research comparing the self-esteem of African Americans to European Americans have found small differences between the groups, with slightly higher self-esteem among African Americans (Porter and Washington, 1979; Rosenberg, 1965). Crocker and Major (1989) argued that recognizing that negative treatment and outcomes are the result of prejudice is protective for self-esteem. That is, African Americans can attribute negative outcomes, such as doing poorly on a task or being treated poorly, to prejudice rather than anything personal. One possibility is that stigmatized group members learn coping strategies for dealing with discrimination (Miller and Major, 2000), perhaps by comparing their outcomes to those who share their stigmatizing condition rather than to the population as a whole. Thus, they might value domains that favor their own group and devalue those that favor other groups (Steele, Spencer, and Aronson, 2002). For those who survive and manage to cope with life-long prejudice, the experience of aging might be quite different than it is for those who have not faced discrimination. Their coping methods may allow them to deal with ageism in much the same way that was adaptive in the past. Research could examine how the experience of being discriminated against over the life course may prepare elderly members of stigmatized groups to cope with age discrimination.
Attention should be focused on the strategies that older adults use for preserving well-being in the face of age discrimination. For example, they might compare themselves only to people of a similar age and value only those domains in which positive outcomes are associated with aging. Some research suggests that older adults may disidentify with their age group in the face of age discrimination (Zebrowitz and Montepare, 2000) to avoid a stigmatized identity and its harmful effects on well-being. Other studies suggest that identifying with one’s older group provides a positive identity in spite of age-related stigmatization (Branscombe et al., 1999; Schmitt et al., 2002). Group identification may enable older adults to avoid negative effects of age discrimination as a form of secondary control (Garstka et al., 2004). In this way older adults could adaptively respond to negative and uncontrollable consequences of age discrimination. It would be important to tease apart and expand the repertoire of control strategies in the context of age discrimination. Furthermore, learning about this repertoire of control strategies may also suggest new ways for people to cope with other stereotypes, including those surrounding the cognitive or physical limitations that frequently occur with aging.