Improvement/Maintenance and Reorientation as Central Features of Coping with Major Life Change and Loss: Contributions of Three Life-Span Theories

Document Type



Adaptive processes, Adult development, Coping with major life change and loss, Life-span theories of development


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This article focuses on the common and unique contributions of three major life-span theories in addressing improvement/maintenance and reorientation, which represent central processes of coping with major life change and loss. For this purpose, we review and compare the dual-process model of assimilative and accommodative coping, the model of selection, optimization, and compensation, and the life-span theory of control. Although these theories share many basic assumptions about developmental regulation, each theory also has unique elements and offers varying degrees of refinement regarding particular aspects. To facilitate research on improvement/maintenance and reorientation guided by these theories, we identify conceptual overlap as well as delineate differential features with respect to key definitions, predictions, and related empirical evidence. We conclude with recommendations and suggestions for future research.

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Peer Reviewed



APA Citation: Boerner, K. & Jopp, D. (2007). Improvement/maintenance and reorientation as central features of coping with major life change and loss: Contributions of three life-span theories. Human Development, 50(4), 171-195.