Examining veterans' generativity and legacy behavior using a qualitative phenomenological approach

Stacy Ellen Presley, Purdue University


According to gerontologists, there is a fundamental societal need to create life course meaningfulness and social guarantees that last from one generation to another. Generativity, or prolonging the self by giving to others, is one way to create this lasting guarantee. This exploratory study examines what legacy individuals wish to leave to future generations and how it affects the way they are conducting their lives. In addition, the study examines a cohort that has been largely ignored in academic literature: veterans. The study has two main objectives: (1) to provide a qualitative view of how veterans form their own legacies, and (2) to expand and contribute to the existing research on generativity and legacy by incorporating a new cohort into the existing literature on generativity. A phenomenological qualitative method was used. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 veterans who were age 50 and over and had served in a branch of the military during wartime. Themes were extracted using the qualitative package N*VIVO. The findings suggest that ‘community generativity’ may be another component to cultural generativity. Also, female veterans' generative behavior was markedly different from male veterans' generative behavior due to the delay in customary sequencing of events, such as marriage and childbirth. Understanding how this cohort defines and creates legacy and generative behavior should lead to a greater understanding of life review and legacy building opportunities.




DeVaney, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Gerontology|Social psychology

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