Chapter 17: Socioemotional Development in Middle Adulthood

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1 Chapter 17: Socioemotional Development in Middle Adulthood McGraw-Hill 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

2 Personality Theories and Development

3 Many personality and development theories of middle age have adult stages: Erikson s generativity versus stagnation Generativity is highly related to intimacy Middle-aged adults develop generativity through parenting, work, and culture Levinson s seasons of a man s life emphasizes developmental tasks

4 Changes in Generativity and Identity Certainty from the Thirties Through the Fifties Thirties Forties Fifties Mean score Generativity Identity certainty Fig. 17.1

5 Levinson s research: middle age lasts about 5 years Adult men face reality about aging and midlife crisis Personal worth of one s life is questioned Smooth midlife transition brings acceptance of past and adjustment may include memory distortion Vaillant s Grant Study: a minority of adults experience midlife crisis Sheehy s results rarely observed in men

6 Emotional Instability and Age Females Males Percentage of individuals who rated themselves as emotionally unstable Age (years) Fig. 17.4

7 Other studies: Middle-age adults feel a growing sense of control in work and personal life Individuals emotional instability did not significantly increase through middle-age years Environmental mastery and self-determination increased in middle-age Midlife crisis has been exaggerated individuals vary in middle adulthood development

8 Age and Well-Being Self acceptance 18 Purpose in life Positive relations Environmental mastery Personal growth Autonomy 14 Mean wellbeing score Young Midlife Older Age group Fig. 17.5

9 The contemporary life events approach is an alternative to age-related stage development Life events like death of spouse, marriage, and divorce cause varying degrees of stress Mediating factors like physical health and family support can reduce stress effects and allow more effective coping strategies Weaknesses of life events approach include too much emphasis on change and what are primary sources of stress

10 Life-stage context Life event: Marriage Widowhood New job Accident Birth of child Mediating variables: Physical health Intelligence Personality Family supports Income Adaptation process Appraisal Coping of threat strategies Adult development change Sociohistorical context Fig A Contemporary Life-Events Framework for Interpreting Adult Developmental Change

11 Overall, stress is highest in young and middle-aged adults; declines in older adults Middle-age development appears to be influenced by historical contexts, gender, and culture Historical changes have affected values, attitudes, behaviors, and expectations of cohort groups Cohorts can alter the social clock that guides our lives

12 Each cohort decides what is the right age for major life events and achievements Most stage theories are accused of male bias focusing on career choices and work achievement with little attention to women s family roles Female experiences are qualitatively different from those of men, and men and women do not enter all of the developmental stages at the same time Cultural and social attitudes affect women s roles

13 Late 1950s study Late 1970s study Activity/Event Appropriate age range Percentage agreeing W M W Best age for man to marry Best age for woman to marry When most should become grandparents Best age to finish school and go to work When most men should be settled in career When most men hold top jobs When most should be ready to retire When a man has most responsibilities When a man accomplishes the most The prime of life for a man When a woman has most responsibilities When a woman accomplishes the most Fig Individuals Conceptions of the Right Age for Major Life Events and Achievements: Late 1950s and Late 1970s M

14 Stability and Change

15 The Kansas City Study was a longitudinal study on people ages 40 to 80, over a 10-year period Styles of coping characterized stability in aging Most change in aging comes from becoming more passive and being threatened by the environment The Baltimore Study used 5 factors of personality to study college-educated persons aged 20 to 96 starting from the 1950s and continuing today Age trends were consistent across cultures surveyed Younger adults were more extraverted Older adults were more agreeable and conscientious

16 Five Big Factors of Personality Extraversion: Sociable or retiring Fun-loving or somber Affectionate or reserved Agreeableness: Softhearted or ruthless Trusting or suspicious Helpful or uncooperative Emotional stability: Calm or anxious Secure or insecure Self-satisfied or self-pitying Openness: Imaginative or practical Interested in variety or routine Independent or conforming Conscientiousness: Organized or disorganized Careful or careless Disciplined or impulsive Fig. 17.9

17 Comparing Chinese and Americans adults ages 20 to 87 using the CPI Age changes less pronounced for Americans All younger adults were more flexible and open All older adults showed more self-control Berkeley Longitudinal Studies: 1920s through today No support that personality is characterized by changes or stability from adolescence to midlife Intellectually oriented, self-confidence, and openness were the more stable traits Ability to nurture and self-control changed most

18 Vaillant s studies: 1920s through today Alcohol abuse and smoking at age 50 was best predictor of death between ages 75 and 80 Factors at age 50 which are best predictors of happy-well between ages 75 and 80: Regular exercise and avoiding being overweight Well-educated and future oriented Having a stable marriage and good coping skills Being thankful, forgiving, and empathic Being active with other people

19 Mills College Study: late 1950s to 1980s Midlife crisis was really midlife consciousness Similarities in concerns found between women in early 40s and Levinson s findings Between ages 27 and early 40s, women shifted toward less traditional feminine attitudes Menopause, caring for aging parents, and empty nest were not linked to increased self-control and responsibility

20 Links Between Characteristics at Age 50 and Health and Happiness at Age 75 to 80 Fig Not overweight Happy- Well Sad-Sick Dead Percentage of individuals at age No heavy smoking No alcohol abuse Stable marriage Some exercise Characteristics at age 50 Good coping skills

21 Close Relationships

22 Middle-age well-being includes good relationships with family and friends Affectionate love increases during middle adulthood Those still married report being satisfied, while those in process of divorcing are alienated and avoidant, with a sense of emptiness Many who divorce in their 40s or later, had stayed together for the children one study showed more women than men initiating the divorce

23 Some of the main reasons men and women seek divorce in middle adulthood: Women Verbal, physical, or emotional abuse Alcohol or drug abuse Cheating Men No obvious reason; just fell out of love Cheating Different values or lifestyles Divorce can have both positive and negative effects and reasons greatly vary among individuals

24 Contrary to what would be expected from the empty nest syndrome, marital satisfaction may increase after the children have left In today s world, stress often results when the empty nest refills with adult children returning home to live for various reasons The most common complaint from children returning to refill the nest is loss of privacy and parents restrictions on behaviors Relationships between adult children and mothers appear to be closer than those with fathers

25 Many middle-aged parents regret not spending more time with their children when those children were younger Research suggests that adults restructure perceptions of their parents during middle adulthood Sibling relationships continue over the entire life span the majority appearing to be very close in adulthood Intimate friendships that have developed over a long time deepen in middle adulthood

26 The majority of grandparents say grandparenting is easier than parenting lack of frequent contact with grandchildren was the worst aspect of the role The grandparent role and its functions vary among families, ethnic groups, and cultures How grandparents interact with their grandchildren varies greatly: Fun-seeking style Distant-figure style Formal style

27 Grandmothers have more contact with grandchildren than grandfathers There is an increasing number of grandchildren living with their grandparents: 5.6 million in 2000 Half of all U.S. children living with grandparents were raised by a single grandmother The majority of homes where both grandparents raise the grandchildren are those of White families

28 As divorce and remarriage become more common, visitation rights for grandparents have become an issue Intergenerational relationships are affected, as each generation changes in attitudes, values, and personality Overall, most family members maintain considerable contact across the generations

29 Similarity between parents and an adult child is often most noticeable in religion and politics Differences between parents and an adult child are most noticeable in gender roles, lifestyle, and work orientation Sometimes middle-aged adults are the sandwich generation caring for their own children and their parents

30 The End

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