Reminiscence functions, death anxiety, and the achievement of ego integrity among aging Holocaust survivors / by Yael Kapeliuk.
This study examined Holocaust survivors' adaptation to the challenges and developmental tasks of older age. Forty five female Holocaust survivors and 45 American-born Jewish women filled out the LSIA, the Physical Health Questionnaire, the Reminiscence Functions Scale, the Adult Ego Development Scale, the Templer Death Anxiety Scale, and a Demographic Questionnaire assessing survivors' war experiences and extent of loss. As predicted, Holocaust survivors demonstrated lower life satisfaction than controls. Holocaust survivors also reported significantly lower self-rated overall physical health than control subjects, although there were no significant differences between the two groups on any of the objective physical-health measures. Holocaust survivors were involved significantly more frequently than controls in 3 types of reminiscence functions: Intimacy Maintenance, Bitterness Revival, and Death Preparation. Findings suggested that Holocaust survivors may use reminiscence as a way to cope with loss and to work through their traumatic experiences, including the death imprint of the Holocaust. It was predicted that Holocaust survivors would be less engaged in Life Review reminiscence than controls. Contrary to this prediction, there was no difference between the 2 groups. Furthermore, Life Review reminiscence was negatively associated with ego integrity at a level approaching significance. This unexpected finding may suggest that the subjects in this study were going through the life review process and had not yet achieved ego integrity. No differences were found between the Holocaust survivor and control groups on any of Erikson's adult developmental tasks: Intimacy versus Isolation, Generativity versus Stagnation, and Ego Integrity versus Despair. These findings point to survivors' resilience and successful adjustment. Holocaust survivors in the present study consisted of two distinct groups: survivors who were incarcerated in concentration camps and labor camps and survivors who were in hiding during the war. Differences between the two groups were presented and discussed in terms of the different war experiences and their impact on subsequent adjustment. The present findings contradict previous research which has focused on clinical survivor populations. The present study demonstrates that despite the extreme trauma that Holocaust survivors endured earlier in their lives, they cope well with the challenges of older age.
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