Aging refers to a biological and inevitable process that inevitably affects all people (1). The phenomenon of aging appears to be one of the substantial issues of the current century, mainly because the world’s population is rapidly aging (2). Social, economic and scientific developments in recent years have contributed to an increase of life expectancy and a decrease of mortality rates, which in turn have led to a significant increase in the elderly population (3). In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that there are 524 million people aged 65 and over worldwide. This number, which is about 8% of the global population, is projected to increase to 1.5 billion by 2050 and to cover about 16% of the global population, and the growth rate seems to be more in developing countries (World health organization, 2011). Iran, as one of these developing countries, is no exception to this population change. According to the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI), the elderly population of this country has increased from 6.4% in 1966 to 9.1% in 2016 (5). One of the consequences of aging is a decrease in the extent of happiness (6). Studies have shown that happiness declines with age (3) and more than ninety percent of the elderly have a moderate level of happiness (7).
Happiness as a positive inner experience seems to be one of the indicators of mental health that stem from the cognitive and emotional evaluation people carry out in their own lives (8). Happiness produces passion, vitality, energy, movement and dynamism, and protects human beings against stressful events (9). Studies have demonstrated that happiness is associated positively with prominent variables in the elderly such as life satisfaction (10, 11), mental health (11–13), self-transcendence (14), and social health (15). Mass et al. (16) figured out that the low level of happiness is related directly to poor mental health and the high degree of disability among the elderly. Lobos et al. (17) also found that happiness is correlated with perceived physical and mental health, life satisfaction and quality of life in older adults. Due to the significance of happiness and its positive consequences in improving individual and social life, efforts have been made by a great number of psychologists toward a better understanding of happiness and its relationship with diverse variables (18). The previous studies have introduced the role of various variables such as economic status (7, 19), social participation (20), religious attitude (21), self-esteem (Amani, 2016; Nanthamongkolchai et al., 2009) and perceived social support (23) in predicting happiness in the elderly. Attachment style, as well, has been presented as one of the most central predictors of happiness (24, 25).
Bowlby defined attachment as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” (1969, p. 194). Bowlby has also stated that attachment can be understood within an evolutionary context in which the parents (or caregivers) provide the infant with safety and security (27). Hollist and Miller (28) defined attachment as a deep emotional connection and affective communication with certain people in life whom a person feels enjoyment and comfort when interacting with. This connection predicts people’s interaction with the world around them. Shaver and Hazan (29) divided adult attachment styles into three categories of secure, avoidant, and ambivalent. Secure people, who have a history of warm and responsive interaction with their attachment figures (parents), are usually characterized by having a positive view of themselves and others. These people, who find it relatively easy to involve in an intimate relationship with others, are comfortable depending on others and having others depend on them, and are not worried about being alone and not being accepted by others (30). Avoidant individuals, however, are usually uncomfortable having close relationship with others and they are likely to find it hard to trust others. Finally, ambivalent adults, who seems to be overly dependent on others, believe that others are reluctant to build a close relationship with them (31). Attachment style affects individuals’ perception of themselves and others, and the way they manage their interpersonal relationships. According to this theory, attachment style appears to have lifelong effects, and determine how individuals cope with their interpersonal problems during their lives (32–35). Therefore, secure attachment is thought to be a protective resource for the elderly as well (36). In a way that the ability to establish and maintain a secure attachment may protect a person against physical and psychological damage such as physical decline, cognitive and social disability, lack of self-esteem, and death of spouse, other family members or friends late in life (37).
Although the aforementioned studies have outlined the relationship between attachment styles and happiness in the elderly, few studies have examined how this relationship may work, namely the pathways through which attachment styles may affect happiness. Almost no studies to our knowledge have examined this pathway in the elderly. For instance, Kamari and Shekhaleslami (38) stated that attachment styles are associated with happiness through optimism in college students. Zhang et al. (39) also figured out that attachment styles are associated with happiness through self-esteem and social support in children. Though studies have indicated the mediating role of optimism, self-esteem, and social support in the relationship between attachment styles and happiness, no study, as of yet, has focused on reminiscence styles as the mediator variable between attachment styles and happiness neither in ages other than the elderly nor in the elderly.
Reminiscence refers to the process of thinking or talking about past experiences and memories (40). Watt and Wong (41) divided reminiscence into six different types including integrative (reviewing life and finding meaning and value from past experiences), instrumental (reminiscing about past experiences in order to solve problems and reinforce present performance), transmissive (recalling memories in order to share specific knowledge), escapist (reviewing the past and perceiving it as a better time than it is now), obsessive (reminiscing about negative times in life and repeatedly thinking about them), and narrative reminiscence (reviewing the past experiences in the shape of a story). Studies on the effectiveness of different types of reminiscence have illustrated the impact of integrative reminiscence on depression, well-being, integrity, self-esteem and life satisfaction (42), instrumental reminiscence on coping (43) and depression (44, 45), transmissive reminiscence on general health (46), as well as narrative reminiscence on happiness (47) and the meaning of life (48) in the elderly. Studies have also shown that attachment styles play a significant role in shaping the type of reminiscence in individuals. For example, Molinari et al. (49) found that compared to unsecure older adults, secure ones scored higher on the teach/inform (transmissive) reminiscence. They also found that there is a significant negative correlation between fearful attachment and teach/inform reminiscence. In addition, it has been realized that the extent of coherence on mothers’ adult attachment interview (which is a valid sign of secure attachment) has a significant positive relationship with their elaborative reminiscence along with their children and their children’s interpersonal self-concept (50).
Although studies have shown the effectiveness of reminiscence-based interventions on increasing happiness in the elderly (51–54), fewer studies have examined the relationship between reminiscence styles, as a self-report variable, and happiness in the elderly. Conducting an important study, Webster (24) examined the relationship of attachment styles and reminiscence styles with happiness, the results of which indicated that on the one hand, attachment style is a significant predictor of four types of reminiscence, namely bitterness revival (obsessive), identity (integrative), problem solving (instrumental) and teach/inform (transmissive). In a way that dismissive and secure groups showed a lower rate of bitterness revival compared to preoccupied and fearful groups, the fearful group showed more identity reminiscence than the dismissive and secure groups did. The dismissive and secure groups showed a lower rate of problem-solving reminiscence compared to fearful group. Finally, the secure group showed a higher extent of teach/inform reminiscence compared to dismissive and fearful groups. On the other hand, bitterness revival, boredom reduction, identity, and problem-solving reminiscences had a significant negative relationship with happiness. Besides, conversation and teach/inform reminiscences showed a significant positive relationship with happiness. Although Webster’s study has somewhat outlined the relationship among attachment styles, reminiscence styles and happiness, no information is provided on how all three of these variables are related together in the form of a structural model. Therefore, the study of the relationship between these three variables in the form of a structural model can bridge one of the existent gaps in the research literature related to this field of inquiry, particularly in the elderly age group, wherein the reminiscence construct serves a very decisive role.
There are also contradictory findings regarding the role of participants’ gender and age in the extent and type of reminiscence in the elderly. For example, Webster (24) did not find out any gender difference in the extent and type of reminiscence in the elderly. Webster also found that older people are more inclined to do death preparation, intimacy maintenance, and teach/inform reminiscences, and that young people more tend to do bitterness revival, identity, and problem-solving reminiscences. However, Webster and McCall (54) demonstrated that women score higher on identity reminiscence and lower on bitterness revival. Webster and McCall also figured out that younger people score higher on boredom reduction, bitterness revival and identity, and older people were more likely to do teach/inform and death preparation reminiscences.
Therefore, considering the gaps and contradictions in the research literature related to this field of inquiry, this study was to investigate the relationship between attachment styles and happiness through the mediating role of reminiscence styles. The hypotheses of this study were as follows: (1) avoidant attachment style is related to happiness through reminiscence styles, (2) secure attachment style is related to happiness through reminiscence styles, (3) ambivalent attachment style is related to happiness through reminiscence styles, (4) participants’ gender and age moderate the relationship between attachment styles and reminiscence styles, and (5) participants’ gender and age moderate the relationship between reminiscence styles and happiness. Presented in Figure 1 is the hypothesized model for the above-mentioned relationships.
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