Emotional and Social Development in Middle
Increasing awareness of limited time ahead prompts middle-aged adults to revaluate the
meaning of their lives
Erikson Theory: Generativity vs. Stagnation
Erikson’s’ psychological conflict is called generativity versus stagnation
• Reaching out to others in ways that give to and guide the next generation
• Generativity outlive the self and ensure the society’s continuity and improvement
• Parenting: major mean of generativity
• Brings together personal desires and cultural demands
• Personal desires: feel a need to be needed
• Cultural desires: requiring adults to take responsibility for the next egenration
• Belief in the species: major conviction that life is good and worthwhile, even in the face
of human destructiveness and deprivation
• Ppl become self centered and self-indulgent after attaining life goals
Generativity normally increases in midlife.
Highly generative ppl are well adjusted, low in anxiety and depression, high in autonomy, self-
acceptance, life satisfaction and successful marriages and close friends. Generativity is
associated with effective child rearing- authoritative style
Having children seems to foster men’s generative development than womens
African Americans are more often engaged in certain types of generativity than Caucasians
Believing in a higher being may preserve generative commitments
Other theories in psychosocial development in midlife
Levinsons’s Seasons of Life Transitional period: 40-45, evaluate their success in early adulthood
Must confront 4 developmental tasks
• Must seek new ways of being both young and old
• Can be sensitive to physical strength and attractiveness
• Participate in activities with human welfare so it is easier to leave a legacy
• Must create a better balance between masculine and feminine parts of the self.
• Men: more feminine traits like nurturing and caring
• Women: masculine traits like autonomy and assertiveness
• Androgynous identity: having both traits
Engagement and Seprateness
• Better balance between engagement with the external world and separateness.
Poverty, unemployment and lack of respected place in society doesn’t allow to focus on the
Vaillant’s Adaptation to Life
• The most successful and best-adjusted entered a calmer, quieter time of life
• Older ppl are guardians of traditions, laws and cultural values
• As approaching midlife, they focus on longer term, less personal goals.
Substantial inner turmoil during the transition to middle adulthood.
Turning point for women: early adulthood; changing work related stuff for marriage and child
Turning point for men: middle adulthood; career responsibilities
Women who acknowledged regret without making life changes, compared to those who
modified their lives reported less favourable psychological wellness and physical health By late midlife, interpretation of regret plays a major role
Those who accepted the regrets with a positive mind had a better physical health and greater
life satisfaction than those who didn’t.
Life evaluation is common in middle age
Emotional and Social Development in Late Adulthood
Some older adults embrace old age positively and some don’t.
Erikson’s Theory: ego Integrity vs. Despair
Adults who arrive at a sense of integrity feel whole, complete and satisfied with their
Ego integrity was associated with more favourable psychological wellbeing (self-acceptance,
Adults feel bad at this stage (despair) when they have made many wrong life choices
Other theories of psychosocial development in late adulthood
Pecks Tasks of Ego integrity and Joan Erikson’s Gerotranscendence
Attaining ego integrity involves 3 distinct tasks
Ego differentiation: those who invested heavily in their careers, finding othe ways to affirm self-
worth. Through family, friendship and community life
Body transcendence: Surmounting physical limitations by emphasizing the compensating
rewards of cognitive, emotional and social peers
Ego transcendence: facing the reality of death constructively through efforts to make life more
secure, meaningful, and gratifying for youngers generation
As elders grow, both ego and body transcendence increase.
Gerotranscendence: a cosmic and transcendent perspective directed forward and outward,
beyond the self; heightened in inner calm and contentment and additional time spent in quiet
Labouvie-Vief’s Emotional Expertise Basic information-processin skills diminish in late adulthood
Elders display compensating emotional strength.
They improve in affect optimization (the ability to maximize positive emotion and dampen
Adults who are high in affect optimization also retain considerable capacity for cognitive
affective complexity (a combination related to especially effective emotional self-regulation)
Adults describe their emotional reactions to personal experiences more vividly.
Coping strategy: making sure they fully understand their own feeling before deciding on a
course of action
Telling stories about people and events from their past and reporting associated thoughts and
Can be adaptive and positive
Life review: calling up past experiences with the goal of achieving greater self-understanding;
part of attaining ego integrity; increased self-esteem, greater sense of purpose in life and
Recent study: few older adults considered the last few decades to be the best; some said
middle adulthood was the best but adolescent or childhood wasn’t a choice for many. This is
proves that older adults do not wish to be small or go back in time.
Today’s elders are future oriented and seek pathways for personal growth.
Reminiscence is self-focused, engaged in to reduce boredom and revive bitter events, is linked
to adjustment problems.
Other-focused reminiscence: directed at social goals such as solidifying family and friendship
ties and reliving relationships with lost loved ones
Knowledge based reminiscence: drawing on their past for effective problem solving strategies
and for teaching younger people.
A changing Social World
Amount of social interaction decreases in old age
Social theories of Aging
Mutual withdrawal between elders and society takes place in anticipation of death. Preoccupied with their inner life.
When they are disengaged, their death is less disruptive to society.
After retirement; some of them develop new, rewarding roles in their community
Disengagement may be a result of society failing to provide opportunities
Social barrier to engagement, not the desires of elders, cause declining rates of interaction.
Elders’ life satisfaction depends on conditions that permit them to remain engaged in roles and
This theory doesn’t focus on psychological change in old age.
Strive to maintain a personal system- an identity and a set of personal dispositions, interests,
roles and skills that promoted life satisfaction by ensuring consistency between their past and
Elders try to minimize stress by choosing to use familiar skills in familiar activities with familiar
Benefits of elders’ reliance on continuity: help preserve physical and cognitive functioning,
fosters self-esteem, and mastery and affirms identity, attaining ego integrity
Socioemotional selectivity theory
Social interaction extends lifelong selection process
In late 80’s only few close relationships
The physical and psychological aspects of aging lead to changes in the functions of social
Physical fragility makes it more important to avoid stress, older adults emphasize the emotion-
regulating function of interaction.
Motivated to only approach pleasant relationships
Interacting with relatives and friends is good for their emotional equilibrium.
Respond to tension by expressing affection and calmly letting the situation blow over.
Older people are happier with their circle of friends and report fewer problematic relationships. Perception of time is linked to their social goals.
As the time is limited, older people tend to focus on the quality of their social experiences
More independent adults mean more emotionally close social partners
Less independent adults mean less emotionally close partners
Physical and Cognitive Development in Middle
Difficulty reading small prints is common
Thickening of the lens and weakening of the muscle are the reasons.
By the age of 50, the accommodative ability of the lens is one-sixth of what it was at the age 20.
Presbyopia: the lens loses its capacity to adjust to objects at varying distances entirely (age 60)
Limits the ability to see in dim light, which declines at twice the rate of daylight vision.
Size of the pupil shrinks and the lens yellows
Vitreous develops opaque areas, reducing the amount of light reaching the retina
Yellowing of the lens and increasing density limit colour discrimination, especially the green,
blue and violent end of the spectrum.
Gradual loss of cones and rods and neurons in the optic nerve
Glaucoma: a disease in which poor fluid drainage leads to a build-up of pressure with in the eye,
damaging the optic nerve. Often in women than men.
Presbycusis: old hearing, age related
Inner ear structures deteriorate noticeable hearing loss at high frequencies
African tribal people hearing loss: biological aging Men’s hearing decline more rapidly than women’s; this becase of smoking, intense noise,
chemical pollutants, high blood pressure, cerebrovascular disease or strokes
Epidermis: outer protective layer
Dermis: middle supportive layer
Hypodermis: inner fatty layer that adds shape of the skin
When we age epidermis is less attached to the dermis.
Skin loses water content
Thinning of the fibers
Skin wrinkles, loosen and feel dry,
Forehead lines from smiling and facial expressions
Crow’s feet around the eye
Skin loses elasticity and begins to sag.
Blood vessels become more visible as the fat layer thins
Ppl who spent more time in the sun without proper skin protection look older than the others
Muscle fat make up
Weight gain increase in body fat and loss of lean body mass
More fat in abdomen in men
More fat in the waist in women and upper arms
Low fat diet and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables: greater initial weight loss and
success fat maintaining that loss over 7 years
Resistance training offsets both excess weight and muscle mass
Bones broaden and mineral content declines
More porous bones
Gradual loss of bone density
Women’s reserve of bone minerals is lower than men Loss of bone strength causes the disks in the spinal column to collapse and height may drop
around 1 inch.
Weight bearing exercises, adequate calcium, and Vi t- D intake, no smoking and no high
alcohol consumption can slow bone loss in women
Climacteric: midlife transition in which fertility declines.
Production of estrogen decreases
Cycles become irregular
Ova is not released
Menopause: the end of menstruation and reproductive capacity; around age 50
Women who smoke and have no children tend to reach menopause earlier
Reproductive organs shrink and genitals to be easily stimulated
Sexual performance difficulties
Drop in estrogen: decreased elasticity and loss of bone mass, loss of the ability to protect
against the accumulation of plaque in arteries
Period leading up to menopause: a rise in body temperature, redness in the face, neck and
chest, sweating (hot flashes)
No changes in quality of sleep in menopausal women.
Low daily doses of estrogen
• Estrogen alone (estrogen replacement therapy) : for women who had hysterectomies
• Estrogen plus progesterone (hormone replacement therapy); lessens the cancers of the
• These help in hot flashes, vaginal dryness, bone deterioration and colon cancer
HRT increases mild increase in heart attack, stroke and blood clots
HRT taken for more than 4 years can cause breast cancer Elevated risk of mild cognitive risk and doubled alzheimer’s disease
HRT begun before menopausal may reduce cardiovascular disease
Women’s psychological rxns to menopause
It can disappointing for women sometimes
Many women regard it as a new beginning; they felt relived as there’s no birth control
Highly educated women had more positive attitude towards menopause than less educated
African americal and Mexican American; had more favourable views
Reproductive changes in men
No counterpart to menopause
Semen diminishes after age 40 and negatively affects fertility
Sperm production continues
Testosterone production declines
Difficulty attaining an erection; so use Viagra or other drugs