Chapter 12:

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Midlife: Setting the Parameters. The longest stage of life, lasting from roughly the 40s thru the 60s.Varies by culture, with midlife being younger in societies where life expectancy is low.Varies from person to person: A 40 year-old with a chronic age-related disease might call himself old; an 80

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1. Chapter 12: Midlife

2. Midlife: Setting the Parameters The longest stage of life, lasting from roughly the 40s thru the 60s. Varies by culture, with midlife being younger in societies where life expectancy is low. Varies from person to person: A 40 year-old with a chronic age-related disease might call himself old; an 80 year-old who is still at the peak of his career might call himself middle-aged. Interesting fact: most U.S. people in their 60s and early 70s call themselves middle-aged. Basic characteristic: THE TIME WHEN WE ARE AT THE PEAK OF OUR POWERS INTELLECTUALLY AND PERSONALITY-WISE (but not physically)

3. Three Contradictory Ideas About How Personality Changes with Age 1) People’s personalities really don’t change. (If they’re high maintenance at age 20 they’ll be impossible in the nursing home.) 2) Entering new life stages or having life transforming experiences radically change us as people. (Since I had that bout with cancer, or had children, my whole world view changed.) 3) As we get older, we grow more confident and competent. (Coping with life experiences has made me more resilient and mature at 50 than I was at 25.) THE RESEARCH DEPENDING ON THE WAY WE MEASURE PERSONALITY, EVERY IDEA IS TRUE!!!...........See next slides

4. #1: Our Personalities Don’t Change (much), The Big Five Results The test: Explores five broad dimensions of personality—extraversion, openness to experience, neuroticism, agreeableness and conscientiousness. The findings: After age thirty people don’t change much (An outgoing 30 year old is apt to be friendly at 80; a neurotic 35 year old, will tend to be neurotic at 95). Explained by the principle that nature evokes nurture. We create environments that go along with our temperamental tendencies (So people who are caring at 30 stay caring at 60 because they tend to have more rewarding, loving life experiences). Caution: these are averages. If our outer lives change a good deal we can change along these dimensions!!

5. #2 We change at different stages of life or after having crucial life experiences The evidence (from Dan McAdams’ studies) Interviewing people about pivotal life events After experiencing major traumas (such as getting cancer), people report changing a good deal in values and specific life paths 2) Giving tests of different aspects of Erikson’s generativity. Results: priorities become more generative in midlife Ask emerging adults, “list your top agendas” and you are likely to hear comments related to getting their own life in order. Ask midlife and older adults and they are likely to focus on generativity related goals– e.g. “to be a good role model” --------------------------------------------------------------------- CONCLUSION: While basic temperamental tendencies may endure, we can change dramatically in our personal values and specific goals

6. More About Generativity People differ in dramatically in generativity at midlife. Highly generative people rate their lives as much more fulfilling than non-generative people. In telling their life stories highly generative people: Describe redemption sequences– “bad” events that turned out for the good Describe a commitment script- childhood memories of feeling special and an enduring generative mission The impulse to be generative is expressed in different ways depending on our culture and gender African Americans are more likely to be unusually generative Perhaps dealing with traumas (such as discrimination) can make us more caring people.

7. #3: We gradually get more mature with age The evidence: 1) In another classic study looking at defense mechanisms (ways of coping with stress) people over age 35 used more mature defense mechanisms 2) In a longitudinal study, women reported getting more self confident in midlife and that the 50s was their “prime of life” Interesting finding: Women who were relatively mature in their 20s tended to grow most with age

8. Summing Up Personality Your core temperamental tendencies (e.g. to be extroverted or agreeable) will not change much after age 30– unless you undergo a major life change. As you reach midlife your priorities are likely to become more generative. You are likely to cope better with stress as you get older, but this is especially true if you are relatively mature now. People differ greatly in generativity and maturity at every age– so take these predictions with a grain of salt!

9. Intelligence: Early Depressing WAIS Findings Same format as WISC-with person answering questions (verbal scale) and putting together items within a time limit (the performance scale) 1960’s Findings: verbal scores stayed more stable; performance scores dramatically declined beginning in the 20s (see chart) CONCLUSION: we get less intelligent beginning in early adulthood. Problem—Study was cross sectional and so did not account for the dramatic cohort differences in education!!!

10. The Seattle Study: The Definitive Study of Age and IQ Strategy: Evaluated people longitudinally and also cross-sectionally (controlling for the biases of each research technique). Findings: Overall intelligence peaks in the late 40s and early 50s. Age patterns differ for different tests. On a test measuring our knowledge base, scores rose until the late 50s. On tests involving fast performance, our abilities decline at a younger age Bottom line: Midlife is our intellectual prime, but specific abilities change in different ways with age (see next slide)

11. Two Basic Types of Intelligence: Fluid and Crystallized Fluid intelligence: mastering something completely new within a time limit Biologically based, begins to decline early in adult life (not much we can do about this) Crystallized intelligence: Accumulated knowledge Can grow until later life (the 60s) depending on whether we keep active mentally When we are close to death, this “stable” aspect of intelligence dramatically declines. (This phenomenon, called terminal drop, can predict impending death, even when we have not been diagnosed with a fatal illness!)

12. Applications to Creative Work and All Jobs During midlife in many fields, people are at their career performance peak Look to its mix of crystallized and fluid skills to see how your abilities in your field are likely to change with age. The most important predictor of your job performance is your enduring competence. Studies of creative geniuses show incredibly gifted people are more competent and productive at every age.

13. General strategies to keep your IQ fine tuned with age Develop a life passion that challenges your mind Throughout life, put yourself in intellectually challenging situations and keep learning Guard against developing heart disease When you are having trouble performing, use selective optimization with compensation Selection: prioritize- focusing on what is most important Optimize: work harder in those tasks Compensate: rely on external aids to help you function to your best Use this approach not just when you are older, but at every age!!

14. Post- formal thought: A new perspective on IQ PREMISE: The standard IQ test doesn’t measure what’s important to being an intelligent adult. After adolescence we go beyond pure scientific logic to think in a more intelligent way about life. CHARACTERISTICS: Relativistic: Knows real world decisions often don’t have clear-cut right or wrong answers. Accepts the validity of different options; looks for the best answer. Feeling oriented: Is open to ones own inner experiences (and interpersonally sensitive too) Question driven: Delights in coming up with new questions and thinking about the world in different ways FINDINGS: More a characteristic of the person than something that increases with age!

16. Grandparenthood: fact sheet Family watchdogs—step in during a crisis to help the family Cement that keeps the family close An unstructured role that people negotiate in different ways, depending on proximity, personality, and the generation in- between. Incredibly fulfilling!!!...... but can have problems.

17. Grandparent Problems The issue: you don’t have control over your involvement Maternal grandmothers– at risk of being too involved Plus: Often the grandma of first rank because daughters are closer to their moms (than their mother in law) Problem: tend to be pressured to take total care of the children or be on call babysitters Paternal grandparents- at risk of too little involvement Worst case scenario: After the wife gets custody in a bitter divorce, can be kept from seeing the grandchildren Caregiving Grandmas Must become the full parent due to child’s serious problems A HIGHLY AMBIVALENT ROLE (see quotes in text p. 389)

18. Parent Care: A fact sheet Highly stressful role because it violates the principle: “parents care for their children, not the reverse”. Usually performed by daughters, unless there are no sisters and the dad needs care Typically occurs in the 50s, when there can also be pressure to take care of THE GRANDCHILDREN, and, of course, the pressure of a full time job. (However, if your mom lives to her 90s you may be doing parent care when you are in your 70s and caring for your disabled spouse.) Forces that make it easier: An enduring loving attachment from past Being sensitive to one another’s autonomy needs Not needing to care for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease. (see chapter 14)

19. Sexuality: A fact sheet Myth= we feel worse about our bodies in midlife; actually young women (as a group) feel worse about their bodies than middle aged women! Male changes (by midlife): Trouble getting and keeping an erection (hint: need manual stimulation!) Not able to have sex more than once in a 24 hour period. Erections not as intense Bottom line: physiologically, men decline from a young age Female changes: The 30s are the desire peak. Physiologically there are far fewer changes, but many women give up having sex due to not having a partner (or not being seen as attractive) Bottom line: for females, social forces loom large in declining sexuality

20. Menopause: A fact sheet Defining marker: not having menstruated for a year Cause: ovulation becomes erratic and then ceases Winding down period, perimenopause, most difficult (with hot flashes, mood swings etc) Very variable symptoms: Some women sail through menopause with no problems; others feel terrible Afterwards: vaginal walls thin and lubrication decreases Major sexual consequence: Intercourse becomes painful Effects on desire: Also very variable (Some women report feeling sexier when they don’t need to use contraception!)

21. Menopause Myths and Realities

22. Sexual Interventions

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