Textbook Notes - Chapter 16

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University of Guelph
Family Relations and Human Development
FRHD 1010
Triciavan Rhijn

Chapter 16 – Middle Adulthood: Social and Emotional Development Did you know: • The midlife crisis is more than creation of Hollywood than of real life. o A midlife crisis may be more the exception than the rule. • Modern mothers no longer experience an “empty-nest syndrome” when the last child leaves home. o Having the last child leave home is often a positive event for middle-aged women. • The events of middle adulthood do not tend to cause major shifts in personality. o According to two decades of longitudinal research, the ‘big five’ personality traits tend to show a good deal of stability over time. • Women who have a college or university education do not typically experience increased personal distress as they advance from adulthood to late adulthood. o Aside from increased concern with aging, this is generally true. • Job satisfaction increases throughout middle adulthood. o A study of more than 2,000 university employees found that job satisfaction increased steadily throughout middle adulthood (Hochwarter et al., 2001). • Middle-aged people tend to have fewer friends than young adults do. o Middle-aged people tend to have fewer friends than young adults, but they have more in common with the friends who remain. L01 – Theories of Development in Middle Adulthood Theories of development in middle adulthood largely deal with the issue of whether we can consider middle adulthood to be a distinct age or phase of life. According to Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, middle adulthood is characterized by a particular life crisis. We shall describe that crisis and consider the evidence, pro and con. Daniel Levinson spoke of a specific midlife transition and a midlife crisis (not to be confused with Erikson’s life crises). Again we shall consider the evidence. Then we will take a broader look at the ways in which personality appears to change – or not change – during middle adulthood. Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development • Generativity vs. stagnation o Generativity: ability to generate or produce (procreation – bearing and raising children); contributes to future generations and enhances one’s self-esteem and sense of meaning in life o Stagnation: inability to procreate; substitutes (teaching, caring for other people’s children) • Erikson argued that people who do not engage in generative behaviour risk stagnating and falling into routines that can strip their lives of meaning and purpose (seems murky) o Van Hiel study (2006): generativity folk scored significantly higher on personality variable of conscientiousness; stagnation folks scored significantly higher on the personality variable of neuroticism (measured as emotional instability, enduring tendency to experience negative feelings) Daniel Levinson’s • Age 40-45 comprise a midlife transition: a psychological shift into middle adulthood that is often accompanied by a crisis during which people fear they have more to look back upon than forward • Termed midlife crisis as a time of dramatic self-doubt and anxiety – passing of youth and preoccupied about imminence of mortality. • Marker events such as menopause, death of partner or friend, child’s leaving home • Once beset by crisis – denies realities of aging (affair to prove sexually attractive, buy car, shift careers) • Many view 45 as the second adulthood • The 50s are more relaxed and productive than the 40s; those in their 50s need to adjust to empty nest, effects of aging, competition with younger workers Entering Midlife: Crisis, Turning Point, or Prime of Life? • Theorists mention 35 or 40 as entering midlife; 35 crucial to journalist Gail Sheehy in her book Passages published in the 1970s. • Age of 35: advised to stop using birth control pill, start using amniocentesis, biological clocks running out • People living longer – into their late 70s or 80s; 40s has become a much more realistic halfway point (turning point) • Levinson – midlife crisis – taking stock of unrecognized dreams; psychotherapy should not be minimized at this time of life • Those outlooks are negative – focusing on tragedy, loos, or doom ~ others see it as ‘entering the prime of life’ though physically declining • Midlife – earning more money than young adults, settled geographically and vocationally; have built systems of social support, may be involved in enduring romantic and social relationships and have children o Flip side: overwhelming responsibility (caring for children, spouse, parents, workplace) • Height of productivity and resiliene The Life-Events Approach • Focuses on particular challenges and changes people are likely to face at this age • Most tragic events: death of spouse or child; death of parent or sibling; divorce or separation; hospitalization or health; caring for parents; finances; appearance; moving or employment change; change in social network • Empty nest syndrome: a feeling or loneliness or loss of purpose that parents, and especially the mother, are theorized to experience when the youngest child leaves home • Sources of stress – negative life events – illness, depression – harmful to people’s health in mid adulthood – resort to medicines; accumulation of stressful life events is capable of accelerating age-related declines in memory functioning o Situations and attitudes can have moderating effects on stressors o Sense of control overrides effects of stress and foster feelings of well- being L02: Stability and Change in Middle Adulthood Five basic factors of personality (McCrae and Costa) to study stability and change in personality development of adults over several decades. Basic temperaments inborn; personalities tend to mature rather than be shaped by environmental conditions; expression of personality traits affected by culture THE BIG FIVE: THE FIVE-FATOR MODEL OF PERSONALITY Factor I / Extraversion Traits: Contrasts talkativeness, assertiveness, and activity with silence, passivity, and reserve Factor II / Agreeableness Traits: Contrasts kindness, trust, and warmth and hostility, selfishness, and distrust Factor III / Conscientiousness Traits: Contrasts organization, thoroughness, and reliability with carelessness, negligence, and unreliability Factor IV / Neuroticism Traits: Contrasts nervousness, moodiness, and sensitivity to negative stimuli with coping
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