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Chapter 16: Middle Adulthood
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Chapter 16: Middle Adulthood

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  1. Chapter 16: Middle Adulthood Module 7 Social and Personality Development in Middle Adulthood


  3. How does personality development occur in middle adulthood?

  4. Two Perspectives on Adult Personality Development Normative-Crisis Versus Life Events • Views personality development in terms of fairly universal stages, tied to a sequence of age-related crises 398

  5. Two Perspectives on Adult Personality Development • Normative-Crisis Versus Life Events • Revenna Helson • Suggest that timing of particular events in adult's life, rather than age per se, determine course of personality development 398

  6. Other Views Erikson • Critics argue that normative-crisis models are outdated • Model came from time when gender roles were more rigid 399

  7. Erik Erikson • GENERATIVITY VERSUS STAGNATION • People consider their contributions to family, community, work, and society. Generativity = looking beyond oneself to continuation of one's life through others Stagnation = focusing on the triviality of their life 399

  8. Building on Erikson’s Views: Gould, Vaillant, and Levinson

  9. Psychiatrist Roger Gould • Adults pass through series of seven, age-related stages • People in late 30s and early 40s begin to feel sense of urgency in attaining life’s goals • Descriptions not research supported 399

  10. Gould’s Approach 400

  11. George Valliant • Keeping meaning versus rigidity • Occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 • Adults seek to extract meaning from their lives by accepting strengths and weaknesses of others • Those who are rigid become increasingly isolated from others 400

  12. Levinson Seasons of Life Theory • Most people are susceptible to fairly profound midlife crisis • Late 30s • Early 40s • Between 40 and 45 400

  13. Midlife Crisis • Stage of uncertainty and indecision brought about by realization that life is finite • Gender differences • Despite widespread acceptance, evidence for midlife crisis does not exist 400

  14. Non-Midlife Life Crisis • For majority of people, transition is smooth and rewarding • Many middle-aged people find their careers have blossomed • They feel younger than they actually are 401

  15. Developmental Diversity Middle Age: In Some Cultures It Doesn’t Exist • Model of aging of Oriyan women • High caste Hindu women • Life course based on nature of one’s social responsibility, family management issues, and moral sense at given timenot on basis of chronological age • Domestic work is highly respected and valued 402

  16. PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT Does personality change or remains stable over course of development? • Erikson and Levinson = substantial change • Paul Costa and Robert McCrae = stability in traits across development 402

  17. Same ol’…same ol’? 403

  18. Stability and Change in the Big Five Personality Traits • Big Five traits are relatively stable past age 30 with some variations in specific traits • Neuroticism, extraversion, and openness to experience decline somewhat from early adulthood through middle adulthood • Agreeableness and conscientiousness increase to a degree • Findings are consistent across cultures 403

  19. What makes you happy?

  20. If You’re Happy and You Know It… • Sense of subjective well-being or general happiness remains stable over life span • Most people general “set point” for happiness • Regardless of where they stand economically, residents of countries across the world have similar levels of happiness 404

  21. Review and Apply REVIEW • In normative-crisis models, people pass through age-related stages of development; life events models focus on how people change in response to varying life events. 405

  22. Review and Apply REVIEW • Levinson argues that the transition to middle age can lead to a midlife crisis, but there is little evidence for this in the majority of people. • Broad, basic personality characteristics are relatively stable. Specific aspects of personality do seem to change in response to life events. 405

  23. Review and Apply APPLY • How do you think the midlife transition is different for a middle-aged person whose child has just entered adolescence versus a middle-aged person who has just become a parent for the first time? 405


  25. Middle Age Marriages • Most frequent pattern of marital satisfaction is U-shaped • Marital satisfaction begins to decline after marriage and falls to its lowest point following the birth of children • Marital satisfaction begins to grow after children leave adolescence and reaches its highest point when kids leave home 405

  26. Do you know about U? 406

  27. What do the newer findings suggest? • Unhappy marriages tend to terminate so earlier cross-sectional methods not representative • Long-married couples were older and were married during when marriage was more highly valued • Different couples have different levels of marital satisfaction even at outset 406

  28. And so… • Why might couples who have children tend to experience better marital satisfaction later in life than do childless couples? • Given these findings, how might you advise a newlywed couple on what to expect as their years of marriage progress?

  29. Good Marriages • Many couples state that their spouse is their "best friend“ • They also view marriage as a long-term commitment • They believe their spouse has grown more interesting over the years • Most feel their sex lives (although frequency goes down) are satisfying 406

  30. Struggling Marriages • About 1 woman in 8 will get divorced after 40 • People are more individual, spending less time together • Many feel concerned with their own personal happiness and leave an unhappy marriage • Divorce is more socially acceptable • Feelings of romantic, passionate love may subside over time 407

  31. Divorce • Divorce can be especially hard for traditional women over 40 who stayed home with kids and never worked outside the home • 75 percent to 80 percent of divorced people eventually remarry • It's harder for a middle-aged woman to remarry.90 percent of women under 25 remarry • While 75 percent of white women remarry, less than half of African American women remarry • Less than 33 percent over the age of 40 remarry 407

  32. Marriage Gradient • The marriage gradient pushes men to marry younger women • Older women are victims of the harsh societal standards regarding physical attractiveness • A major reason many remarry is that being divorced carries a stigma 408

  33. Second Time Around • Older couples are more mature and realistic • Roles are more flexible • Couple looks at marriage less romantically and is more cautious • Divorce rate is higher for second marriages • More stress especially with blended families • Once divorce experienced it is easier to walk away a second time 407

  34. Family Evolutions: From Full House to Empty Nest • When parents experience feelings of unhappiness, worry, loneliness, and depression resulting from their children's departure from home • More myth than reality 408

  35. When children leave home… • Parents can work harder • More time alone • House stays cleaner • Phone doesn't ring as often 408

  36. Boomerang Children: Refilling the Empty Nest • Young adults who come back to live in homes of their middle-aged parents • Men are more likely to do it than women • Parents tend to give sons more freedom than daughters • Unable to find a job • Difficulty making ends meet 409

  37. Sandwich Generation • Fulfill needs of both their children and their aging parents • Couples are marrying and having children later • Parents are living longer 409

  38. Caring for Aging Parents • Care of aging parents can be psychologically tricky • Significant degree of role reversal • Range of care varies • Financial • Managing household • Providing direct care • Influenced by cultural norms and expectations 409

  39. Becoming a Grandparent: Who, Me? • Involved (actively engaged and have role in raising/teaching) • Companionate (supportive roles, occasionally take the grandchildren) • Remote (detached and distant) 410

  40. Are all grannies the same? • Marked gender differences in ways people enjoy grandparenthood • Grandmothers are more interested and experience greater satisfaction than grandfathers • African American grandparents are more apt to be involved 410

  41. Family Violence: The Hidden Epidemic • Prevalence • Characteristics of abuser and abused 411

  42. Factors • Low SES • Growing up in a violent home • Families with more children have more violence • Single parent families with lots of stress 411

  43. Neil Jacobson and John Gottman • Husbands who abuse fall into two categories: • “Pit bulls” confine violence to those they love and strike out against their wives when they feel jealous or when they fear being abandoned • “Cobras” are likely to be aggressive to everyone, are more likely to use weapons, and are more calculating, showing little emotion or arousal 412

  44. Lenore Walker • Marital abuse by a husband occurs in three stages: • Tension-building stage where a batterer becomes upset and shows dissatisfaction initially through verbal abuse • Acute battering incident when the physical abuse actually occurs • Loving contrition stage where the husband feels remorse and apologizes for his actions 412

  45. Why Women Stay • Wife feels somewhat at fault • This explains why women stay in abusive relationships • Some stay out of fear 412

  46. Cycle of Violence Hypothesis • Abuse and neglect of children leads them to be predisposed to abusiveness as adults • About one-third of people who were abused or neglected as children abuse their own children • Two-thirds of abusers were not abused as children 412

  47. Cultural Differences • Cultural correlates • Status • Low status they = easy targets • High status = threat to husbands 412

  48. Becoming an Informed Consumer of Development Dealing with Spousal Abuse • Teach both wives and husbands that physical violence is NEVER acceptable • Call the police • Understand that the remorse shown by a spouse, no matter how heartfelt, may have no bearing on the possibility of future violence • If you are the victim of abuse, seek a safe haven • If you feel in danger from an abusive partner, seek a restraining order • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for immediate advice. 413