Class: FRHD*1020 (Couple and Family Relationships)
Professor: S. Murray
Textbook: “The Family Dynamic – A Canadian Perspective” Fifth Edition
Authors: Margaret Ward and Marc Belanger
Chapter 7: The Middle Years and the Not-So-Empty Nest
• To show the place of the middle years as a transition in the family life cycle
• To explore the transitions that occur for both children and parents during the middle years
• To describe the stresses on the parents from both the child and grandparent generations
Mid-life – ages of 40 or 45 and 64, period of re-evaluation of life course so far. Some set off in new directions
in work or family relationships. Children may be toddlers or emerging adults.
THE PARENT GENERATION AT MID-LIFE
Robert and Ann Miller in the Niagara Peninsula in 1800s had 14 children, born when mom was 20 and
the youngest when she was 45. Child rearing consumed 45 years of her life.
Parents more concerned with individual or couple pursuits.
Current midlife generation consists of baby boomers – 2006 hey were 41-60 years old, largest group in
the population (nearly 1/3 ). Working population getting older. At nearly 3.7 million, they now make up 16.9%
of working population. Median age of population is 39.
Table 7.1 – Population by Selected Age Groups – 1991, 2001, 2011 2021
Total Population 1991 2001 2011 2021
(millions) 27.3 30.0 33.9 36.6
Age Group 35-44
(millions) 4.37 5.10 4.74 5.11
(proportion) 16.0% 17.0% 14.0% 14.0%
Age Group 45-64
(millions) 5.37 7.29 9.72 10.01
(proportion) 19.7% 24.3% 28.7% 27.3%
Middle years of adulthood have now joined child rearing as the longest stages in life. Midlife group is
diverse – first-time parents to grandparents (20-25 year span); peak of careers to retirement. Any generalizations
about this group will fit only parts of the population.
Family life cycle – transitional; involves major readjustment of family system; new boundaries drawn as
to who is a family member as children age and move out, new roles to be established.
Stressors – a life event that can produce change in the family system, i.e. parenthood, death.
Interpersonal tensions – arguments about finances. Most important resources are family, friends and
Figure 7.1 – Developmental Periods in Early and Middle Adulthood
65 Late adulthood transition
60 Culmination of middle adulthood
55 Age 50 transition
50 Entering middle adulthood
45 Midlife transition
40 Settling down 33 Age 30 transition
28 Entering the adult world
22 Early adult transition
17 (Childhood and adolescence)
Midlife: A Time for Evaluation
Daniel Levinson – major transitions in life. Erik Erikson – generativity. First half is midlife evaluation and
transitions (ages of early 40s to late 50s). Second half is liberation, experimentation, innovation (late 50s to
early 70s). Bucket lists. Midlife crisis, time of extreme strain during period of evaluation is quite rare. Rather
a quest for meaning in life.
• Assessing Oneself: Generativity – involves creating one’s legacy and can take place within the family or
in the wider society; having children and raising them; mentoring a relative or young person; creating
artistic work; advocacy or involvement in service organizations; career and public life were seen as
important forms of generativity. Homemakers sometimes described as suffering from empty nest
syndrome depression, sense of uselessness – significant and necessary task. Identity – search for
personal meaning. Development of a sense of confidence and competence. Growing sense of mortality.
• Assessing One’s Career: Need goals. Levinson – man forms a dream earlier in life and will assess at
midlife whether it is still attainable or set another goal. Stock-taking – values and circumstances , have
they changed? Continue this way? Push toward excitement and pull toward security. Career crisis can be
triggered by disturbing life-changing event (death, divorce).
• Looking at Close Relationships: Involved with children and parents (sandwich) and some grandparents
or grandchildren. Have romantic relationships, friendships, and sibling ties. Sept-families. Sometimes
these generation-rich families are referred to as “beanpole families”.
• Marriage and Sexuality: Romantic ties more diverse (cohabitation, marriage, divorce, remarriage,
never-married, same-sex relationships). A number find new partners, often one who suits their new self-
image (old partner may remind them of aging, not rewarding). Adjust to childless household, roles shift
– balance, androgyny. Men concerned with relationships, women with achievement. Shift and balance
result in happy couple. Warm and trusting relationships help, secure attachment. Teens at home more
likely depressed; puberty in first-born child linked to distress in parents relationship. Teens offer stress
on parents’ relationship. After children leave, marriage relationship becomes more central. Men more
relaxed with spouse and enjoyed time together, satisfied with having raised successful children. Sexual
relationship changes – fewer interruptions, more private time; may be more asexual. Men more
attractive linked to success and financial stability – increases with age. Women – youthful physical
appearance – declines with age. Ages 45-59 – sex is an important part of their relationship (especially
men). About 2/3 of men who have used medicine/hormone to help sex report increased satisfaction
with their sex life.
ADOLESCENCE AND THE APPROACH OF ADULTHOOD
Up to age 12 or so, children move away from total dependence, gain physical strength and agility, grasp
language(s) around them, understand rules of family and society, formed relationships with family members and
Next 12 years they will physically mature, finish education, move out of parents home, get a job, find
romantic/sexual partner, have a child. Accept and take responsibility for self, develop physical, intellectual and
social qualities that enable them to take on adult roles. Person forms identities around sexual behaviour,
vocational direction, values and ideals that will guide that persons life.
North America – no specific rites of passage to mark start of adulthood. Emerging adulthood.
The Preliminaries – Preadolescence and the Earlier T