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Chapter 16
PS3313

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CHAPTER 16

MIDDLE ADULTHOOD

40 – 65 years old

 

PSYCHOSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Relationships

 

Midlife is a special time.  It is a time where adaptability may be necessary.  Many find new careers, sometimes there are divorces, and the blossoming possibilities that come with empty nest (M. Albright, pages 593 – 94).

 

Middle aged people are not only in the middle of the adult life span, they are in the position to look back and ahead in their own lives; they also bridge older and younger generations.  Very often, they are the ones who hold families together.  (Having  been young  they can relate to some of the problems younger people face;  they can explain certain things and tell you what to expect).   Grandparent homes are generally the meeting place for families during Thanksgiving and Christmas

 

 

WHAT DO CLASSIC THEORIST SAY ABOUT PSYCHOSOCIAL CHANGE IN MIDDLE AGE?

 

 Some theorists, such as Freud, Costa and McCrae, suggest that personality is essentially formed by midlife.

 

On the other hand Maslow and Carl Rogers looked on middle age as an opportunity for positive change.

Self-actualization according to Maslow only comes with maturity.  Rogers contend that full human functioning require a constant, lifelong process of bringing the self in harmony with experiences.

 

Research today has moved beyond the debate over Stability versus Change (both are involved) to the question of “What kind of change occur” and “What bring them about”. 

 

Normative – Stage Model            Carl Jung                 

                                                          Erik Erikson

 

Carl Jung contends that men and women at midlife undergo a process of individuation whereby they express previously suppressed aspects of their personality.  Two necessary tasks in the individuation model are giving up the image of youth and acknowledging mortality. Examples

 

 

“Over 35 should never wear baseball cap backwards”

Piercing

 

“Plan your own funeral arrangements”

making a  “Will”

 

In contrast to Jung, Erikson purposes the Generativity  versus Stagnation model.  This is a stage in which the middle-aged adult develops a concern with establishing, guiding, and influencing the next generation or else experience stagnation (a sense of inactivity or lifelessness).

Then there is the Timing of Events: The Social Clock Model.  According to the timing of event model, personality development hinges less on age than on important life events. Premature death, early marriage,   having children, launching children, becoming grandparents, changing jobs or careers, and, eventually, retirement.  These factors have more to do with bringing about change than age. 

 

 

 

IS THERE A MIDLIFE CRISIS?

 

 

Change in personality and lifestyle during the early to middle forties are often attributed to midlife crisis (a supposedly stressful period triggered by a review and reevaluation of one’s Life, coined by Elliott Jacque, 1967). 

 

According to Jacque, many people realize they will not be able to fulfill the dreams of their youth or that fulfillment of their dreams has not brought satisfaction they had expected.  They know that if they want to change direction, they must act quickly.  Levinson (1978, 1980, 1986, 1996) maintains that midlife turmoil is inevitable as people struggle with the need to restructure their lives.

 

Today, the reality of the midlife crisis as a developmental experience is greatly doubtful (The onset of midlife may be stressful, but no more than some events in early adulthood, and does not constitute a crisis).

 

 

DOES MIDDLE DEVELOPMENT DIFFER FOR MEN VS WOMEN?

 

Some research (David Gutmann, 1987) suggest a masculinization of women and feminization of men. 

Gutmann, suggested that men becomes more nurturing and passive whereas women become more domineering and independent.

 

In the literature this purposed idea is known as a gender Crossover

 

However, a majority of research does not support Gutmann’s proposed gender crossover.

 

DOES MARRIAGE BECOME HAPPIER OR UNHAPPY DURING THE MIDDLE YEARS?

 

Research on the quality of marriage suggests a dip in martial satisfaction during the years of child rearing, followed by an improved relationship after the children leave home.

U  Shape curve

Satisfying sexual relationships remains an important factor during this period of life, however, social relationships are even more important.  9 out 10 men and women reported a good relationship with a spouse or partner as important, but so are close ties with friends and families.

 

HOW COMMON IS DIVORCE AT THIS TIME OF LIFE?

 

Most divorces occur during the first 10 years of marriage (S.C. Clark, 1995).  Consequently, divorce at midlife is relatively uncommon, perhaps due to in part to the buildup of marital capital (financial and emotional benefits of marriage that becomes difficult to give up, G.S. Becker, 1991).

 

Socioeconomic status and the timing and effects of the empty nest play a part.

 

 

FRIENDSHIPS DURING MIDDLE AGE

 

 

Social networks tend to become smaller and more intimate at midlife. As compared to younger people, middle-aged people have little time and energy to devote to friends.  They are too busy with family and work and with building up security for retirement.

 

Still, friendships do persist and individuals depend on friends for emotional support and practical guidance.

 

During this time the quality of midlife friendships often makes up for what they lack in quantity of time spent.  Especially during a crisis, such as a divorce or a problem with an aging parent, adults turn to friends for comfort and companionship.

 

HOW RELATIONSHIPS EFFECT QUALITY OF LIFE

 

As we saw in Young Adulthood, relationships seem to be good for physical as well as mental health.

 

A longitudinal study of over 32,000 healthy men between age 42 and 77 who were socially isolated, unmarried, with fewer than six friends and relatives……….. were more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, accident, or suicide during the next four years than men with larger social networks.

 

 

HOW DO PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS CHANGE AS CHILDREN APPROACH AND REACH ADULTHOOD?

 

 

It is ironic that during this time the two individuals are linked together at the most emotional Crises stage of the life span.  Adolescence and Midlife individuals are thrown together too live in the same household.  Both are dealing with their own special problems or concerns at this time. 

 

Parents of adolescents have to come to terms with loss of control over their children’s lives.

 

Another important task for parents is to accept maturing children as they are, not as what the parents had hoped they would be.

The years when children have left home are often among the happiest.  However, the “emptying of the nest “ may be stressful for fathers who have not been involved with child rearing, for mothers who have failed to prepare for the event, and for parents whose children have not become independent when expected.

Today, more young adults are returning, to live with parents (the revolving door syndrome).  The situation is smoother if the parents see the adult child as moving toward autonomy.

 

HOW HAS GRANDPARENTHOOD CHANGED, AND WHAT ROLE DO GRANDPARENTS PLAY?

 

 

Although most American grandparents today are less intimately involved in grandchildren’s lives than in the past, they often play an important role.

 

Divorce and remarriage of an adult child can affect grandparent / grandchild relationships and….obviously, it creates new step grandparent roles.

 

An increasing number of grandparents are serving as Parents by default for children whose parents are unable to care for them, often as a result of teenage pregnancy or substance abuse.

 

Many children are in kinship care (Care of children living without parents in the home of grandparents or other relatives with or without a change of legal custody, page 625).

For grandparents, raising grandchildren can create physical, emotional, and financial strains. Nevertheless, most grandparents who take on the responsibility to raise their grandchildren do it because they love the children and do not want them placed in a stranger’s foster home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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