It is frequently suggested that younger adults are negative in their attitudes toward elderly people. There are also claims that such attitudes develop as a result of the socially constructed phenomenon of ageism. This paper briefly addresses the concept as it is presented in the literature and goes on to describe an attitudinal study which supports the existence of ageism. An Attitudes Toward the Elderly inventory was administered to secondary school pupils during their final 2 years of schooling, to student nurses at the very beginning of their training and to qualified nurses. It was found that the subjects did demonstrate negative attitudes and that there appeared to be a definite gender socialization influence, with females demonstrating less negative attitudes than males. Contrary to expectations, entry into nursing did not lead to more positive attitudes but had the converse effect. The influence of ageism and more specific professional socialization processes are suggested as explanations for these patterns. Implications for nursing and other occupational groups involved in caring for the elderly are discussed.