Date of Completion


Embargo Period



subjective age, predictors, antecedents, context, emotion, affect, qualitative, mixed-methods, SACP model

Major Advisor

Janet Barnes-Farrell

Associate Advisor

Robert Henning

Associate Advisor

Alicia Dugan

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Subjective age (SA), a self-construal of age often measured by asking how old a person feels (e.g., felt age, FA), has been proposed as an alternative to chronological age (CA) in organizational research. Indeed, prior research reveals that SA has predictive abilities above and beyond CA on work relevant outcomes such as stress, retirement intentions, and health. Younger adults tend to report feeling older than their CA; this switches to feeling younger than CA sometime around mid- to late-twenties, although there is considerable variability in the size and direction of FA-CA differences at all ages. Yet, relatively little is known about what influences SA, and investigators from diverse fields have appealed for exploratory research directed at this endeavor. In response, this dissertation aimed to identify factors that influence SA, investigate its volatility, and explore its contextual as well and emotional nature. Using a mixed methods approach, three studies involving a broad age range of working adults were conducted. In Study 1, thematically analyzed open-ended responses uncovered new and under explored determinants of SA, including contextual elements. Quantitative data from Study 2 revealed domain based SAs, suggesting that SA can vary throughout the course of a day simply by transitioning from one life sphere to another. Interviews conducted for Study 3 provided evidence of how contextual features interact to impact both SA and its associated emotional appraisal. From these results, I developed a theory-based contextual process model of SA describing how the interplay of contextual features precipitate a comparative process that results in an emotional responses and, when age is salient, SA assessment. This framework should serve as guide to future investigations into the contextual nature of SA. Recommendations are made for researchers wishing to apply this framework.