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Chapter Twenty-Two. Middle Adulthood: Psychosocial Development. PowerPoints prepared by Cathie Robertson, Grossmont College Revised by Jenni Fauchier, Metropolitan Community College. Personality Throughout Adulthood. Personality is a major source of continuity

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chapter twenty two

Chapter Twenty-Two

Middle Adulthood:

Psychosocial Development

PowerPoints prepared by Cathie Robertson, Grossmont College

Revised by Jenni Fauchier, Metropolitan Community College

personality throughout adulthood
Personality Throughout Adulthood

Personality is a major source of continuity

provides coherence and identity

stable traits the big five
Stable Traits :The Big Five

Extroversion = outgoing, assertive, and active

Agreeableness = kind and helpful

Conscientiousness = organized, deliberate, and conforming

Neuroticism = anxious, moody, and self-punishing

Openness = imaginative, curious, artistic, and willing to have new experiences

stable traits the big five cont
Stable Traits :The Big Five, cont.
  • Traits determined by
    • genes
    • culture
    • early childhood
    • experiences and choices made during adolescence and early adulthood
  • Ecological niche—the specific lifestyle and social context adults settle into that are compatible with their personality needs and interests
developmental changes in personality
Environment generally reinforces basic temperament

significant changes can make people act differently

death of a spouse, divorce, illness, career change, etc.

Developmental Changes in Personality
gender convergence
Gender Convergence

Gender convergence—a tendency for men and women to become more similar as they move through middle age

Gender crossover—the idea that each sex takes on the other sex’s roles and traits in later life.

gender convergence cont
Gender Convergence, cont.
  • These ideas are partly biosocial, “shadow side,” and cultural
    • Barnett and Hyde (2001) believe that this change is historically-based
      • the past century witnessed changes every decade and gender roles changed
      • today’ middle-aged generation is probably less likely to converge since male-female differences in personality less apparent
the midlife crisis
The “Midlife Crisis”

Midlife crisis—a period of unusual anxiety, radical reexamination, and sudden transformation widely associated with middle age, but probably more related to developmental history than to chronological age

the midlife crisis cont
The “Midlife Crisis,” cont.
  • The idea was promoted by Sheehy (1976) and Levinson (1978), but no large study has found such a crisis
  • Why then do people talk about it as if it really existed?
    • myth may allow adults to cope with disappointment, frustration, sadness caused by aged-related changes
family relationships in midlife
Family is most important support system

If one’s own family is not doing that job, “fictive kin” may be found

treated as family by this group

Social convoy—group of people who form relationships with an individual through which they guide and socialize that person as he or she moves through life

Family Relationships in Midlife

Having an intimate relationship is a source of happiness, comfort, and self-respect; for 70 percent of middle-aged Americans, this achieved with a spouse

For some divorced, widowed, or never-married middle-aged adults, intimacy may be achieved by cohabitation

marital happiness
Marital Happiness

Not all people are in good/happy relationships

relationship may be destructive

but worldwide, spouse abuse far more common among younger married couples than among middle-aged spouses

marital happiness cont
Marital Happiness, cont.
  • Often regain some of closeness of early marriage
    • less stress from kids
    • higher incomes
    • more time together
  • Studies in various cultures show that marital happiness in midlife is true
  • In general, marriage relationships likely to get better over time
divorce and remarriage
Divorce and Remarriage

Not all couples become closer

after years of marriage, divorce has more impact

reduces income, weakens family ties when long-terms social bonds especially needed

Most divorced remarry within 5 years

Remarriage offers benefits to both men and women

Second marriages end in divorce more often than first marriages do

the marriage market for middle aged adults
Marriage is likely to benefit middle-aged adults

Middle-aged women are at a disadvantage for marrying, remarrying

beginning at aged 45, there are more women than men

men tend to marry younger women

The Marriage Market for Middle-Aged Adults
other relatives
Kinkeeper—the person who takes primary responsibility for celebrating family achievements, gathering the family together, and keeping in touch with family members who live far away

most likely to be middle-aged

most are women, but men also can take the role

Other Relatives
aging parents
Aging Parents

Relationship with Parents

improves with time

Familism—the idea that family members support one another because family unity is more important than individual freedom and success

stronger with ethnic minorities


Siblings often become closer to each other in the second half of life than in early adulthood

They help one another with problems with teenage children, stressful marriages, and family contacts

siblings cont
Siblings, cont.
  • Childhood Echoes—the relationship in middle and late adulthood is influenced by family values instilled in childhood
    • closeness can also be affected by childhood rivalries, but these may be put aside at this point
siblings cont20
Siblings, cont.
  • New Challenges—keeping up the relationship even though there are challenges such as primary caregiving of a parent by one sibling
    • death of a parent can increase problems—like inheritance
adult children
Adult Children

Relationship with Children

improves with maturity of children

Seven-nation survey: 75 percent of middle- aged parents communicated with adult children several times a week

adult children cont
Adult Children, cont.
  • Forms of Parental Support
    • monetary
    • various services like babysitting
  • Some children return home, referred to as “swollen nest”
  • Young adult children less likely to leave home, especially if parents in good health and they themselves are financially needy

Personality, ethnicity, national background, and past parent-child relationship affect nature of grandparent-grandchild relationship as does child’s age and personality

Bond closer if

grandchild young

parent is first to have children

grandparent neither too young nor too old to spend time/energy interacting

types of grandparents
Remote grandparents—respected and loved

emotionally distant grandparents

Involved grandparents—active in day to day life, live near, see often

Companionate grandparents—independent, with own lifestyle and household, choose how generational interaction occurs

Most grandparents want to be companions

Types of Grandparents
immigrant grandparents
Immigrant Grandparents

Happily become involved, especially when all speak a common language

Often live in the same household

Children seem to develop better when they are cherished and guided by a large family

immigrant grandparents cont
Immigrant Grandparents, cont.
  • Many immigrant and minority families do not trust the majority culture to transmit their values, beliefs, language, and customs (culture)
    • grandparents best source of cultural continuity
surrogate parents
Surrogate Parents

Surrogate parents—grandparents who take over the raising of their grandchildren as a result of their adult children’s extreme social problems

if parents too poor, too young, drug or alcohol addicted, single, newly divorced, then—

possibility of surrogate parenting increases

surrogate parents cont
Surrogate Parents, cont.
  • Grandparents furnish stability, guidance, and patience
  • Responsibility takes a toll if it lasts too long
    • can impair health and well-being
after adult children divorce
More than one in three grandparents witness divorce of an adult child

Grandparents typically provide extra help when their newly divorced child receives custody of children

If their adult child does not have custody, they may be shut out

grandparents in such situations may sue for visitation rights

After Adult Children Divorce
the myth of the sandwich generation
Sandwich generation—generation of middle-aged people who are supposedly “squeezed” by the needs of the younger and older generations

Some do feel pressured, but most are not burdened by such obligations

they enjoy filling needs or—

may choose to take on some (or no) responsibilities

The Myth of the Sandwich Generation
the myth of the sandwich generation cont
Most choose not to provide financial or caregiving help to older generation

one study shows less than 20 percent provided help of any kind

assistance 3 times more likely by African-American couples

Personality may be as influential as need in determining whether to provide substantial help to either generation

The Myth of the Sandwich Generation, cont.
work in middle adulthood
90 percent of men and 75 percent of women in the United States are employed

Worldwide, work is a welcome part of life

Most jobs provide more joy than stress

Work in Middle Adulthood
overall trends
Overall Trends

Meaningful work becomes more important as an individual ages

salary and benefits tend to rise with seniority

lower rates of


being fired or quitting

seeking a new job

overall trends cont
Overall Trends, cont.
  • Many middle aged workers have worked for the same employer for more than five years
  • There may be unexpected job loss as a result of downsizing and restructuring or relocation of company
balancing work and family
Unlike young men, middle-aged men are no longer more concerned with work than with their family life

parental/family role usually considered more important than work role

Balancing Work and Family
dealing with job stress
Dealing with Job Stress

Some people addicted to long hours and hard work, or “workaholism”

Both men and women are physically and psychologically healthier if they have multiple roles

Stress in one area of life can be relieved by support from other areas

scaling back
Scaling Back

Begin to deliberately balance work life with other concerns

Place limits on work hours or responsibilities

One partner may work part-time or at a less critical and lower paying job

Or partners may take turns; one focuses on employment, the other on child care

Rethinking and shifting toward retirement

Planning and actual event usually occur in middle age

Retirement generally anticipated with more joy than dread

The decision to retire is usually mutual, since both husband and wife are working

Main planning consideration is financial