It is the goal of this project to study the development of individual and social resources that foster individuals' coping with long-term consequences of German re-unification from adolescence to middle adulthood. A combination of cross-sectional and longitudinal designs will be employed. The project will start with a representative cross-sectional survey of 13 to 42 year-olds. Based on this survey, participants will be cross-classified according to their exposure to social change (low versus high) and the extent of their personal and external resources (low versus high). From the resulting four groups, a sub-sample of participants will be selected for two further waves of longitudinal assessments in the subsequent two years.
Based on a theoretical model of the development and effectiveness of resources and coping-processes in individuals' encounters with social change, the initial set of the planned analyses will focus on the prevalences of change-related challenges and constraints, coping-processes and resources, and their variations across age, region (East vs. West, North vs. South, and specific regions), and time. It is expected that young adults will be found to be most resourceful in that individuals' openess towards social change and their flexibility of coping responses vanish in later ages due to constraining family and job commitments. Before re-unification, East Germans used to live under particularly stable and predictable conditions, and consequently faced fewer opportunities to acquire skills for successfully dealing with social change during that time. In the aftermath of re-unification, however, they faced more severe challenges compared to people in the West. Insofar, unification-related social change represented a real school for the build-up of skills and resources. Against this backdrop, a special focus of the research project will be on East-West differences in coping resources. Based on the assumption that individuals' coping resources themselves alter when confronted with social change, related data of the present project will be compared to those of the principal investigator's 1991 and 1996 surveys in order to analyze changes in individuals' resourcefulness since unification.
Subsequently, bivariate as well as multivariate relationships will be analyzed between experiences of social change, resources, retrospectively assessed developmental conditions (socialization, role models, past encounters with social change, characteristics of the family context), coping processes, and developmental outcomes, i.e., indicators of psychosocial adaptation. In order to test our theoretical model, structural equation modeling and hierarchical multilevel analyses will be employed. Cross-sectional surveys offer neither evidence about the causal direction of covariations, nor insights into differential change processes. Therefore, the longitudinal part of the project will prospectively identify conditions for the change of coping resources, and evaluate the impact of the latter on indicators of successful adaptation. Furthermore, intervention studies primarily aimed at fostering individuals' resources should also illuminate the connections between resources, coping processes, and successful psychosocial development in a long-term perspective.
This project is part of the Sonderforschungsbereichs 580 Social developments after strucutral change. Discontinuity, tradition, structural formation of the German Research Foundation. More information you can find at the Homepage of the Sonderforschungsbereichs 580.
Silbereisen, R. K.