Levinson's Stage Theory Research Paper

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¶ … Clinical Implications of Levinson's Stage Theory

What is the underlying philosophical paradigm of the practice theory? Why do you think this is the philosophical paradigm underlying this theory? Link the major assumptions of the theory to the ontological, axiological, and methodological assumptions of the epistemological paradigm.

Identify and describe what research studies have been used to test this theory. In other words, what research studies have been conducted using this theory?

What research methods did these research studies use to test the theory. (Hint: The epistemological paradigm that guides the theory should be aligned with the methodological assumption of the epistemological paradigm.)

Discuss the scope of practice theory and its appropriateness for theory building and validation. How accurate is the theory in explaining the phenomenon?

All human endeavor is subject to historical forces. Ideas are as much a product of the moment of their birth as is technology, although this is easy to forget. We remember that penicillin and atomic weaponry are products of the middle of the last century and understand them in the context of the blood-filled fields of Europe and the ash-filled streets. We must be equally aware of this historical context when we assess theories of human nature and development such as that of Daniel Levinson's model of human life development.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Research Paper on Levinson's Stage Theory Assignment

Levinson's model was a product of his particular generation in two separate ways. First, and less important, it was derived in important ways from that of Erik Erickson, a colleague. Levinson and Erikson worked together as did Talcott Parsons and Gordon Allport: All of these scholars saw human development in essentially linear and evolutionary terms. To some extent, this perspective arose from the fact that they were continually influencing and reinforcing each other. but, more importantly, they were all collectively influenced by intellectual ideas that were most important at the time.

Levinson's model incorporates two related but distinct philosophical trends that dominated academic (and public policy) thinking in the middle of the last century. This first of these was essentially evolutionary. All of the psychodynamic models that keyed off of Freud's original model were based on a fundamentally Darwinian model. Freud himself read Darwin's work, and the idea that the direction of growth is linear and towards complexity are evident in all models influenced by Freud, including Erikson as well as Levinson.

This underlying evolutionary philosophy (as conceived of during the middle of the last century, with roots both in 19th century biology and geology and mid-twentieth century genetics research) is not a neutral one. Levinson's model assumes both that change over time is generally positive and -- even more importantly -- that change tends to be adaptive. His model is one in which we each as individuals change over time in ways that tend to keep us well adapted at each stage of our lives. This underlying philosophy -- a form arguably of utilitarianism in which we can hear the echo of Pangloss's "All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds" joined with the relentlessly optimistic form of functionalism that dominated social science theory in the post-war decades -- can be tied to other broad elements of Levinson's work.

This basic philosophy, for example, can be seen to be linked to the ontological basis of Levinson's model. This ontological basis can must accurately be described as a social constructivist model because Levinson's model requires (to be valid and workable) an insistence that individuals are responsible for making their own world meaningful to themselves. Levinson is not wholly committed to this model since he hedges his bets as to how important internal (constructivist) elements of human development with external facts. This accords with the philosophical basis of the model: Levinson is arguing from the first principles of biology, which is that organisms tend to grow and become more complex. This matches up with the non-constructivist aspects of his philosophy.

But more important is the way in which Levinson's model links constructivism with the concept of adaptation. For biologists, adaptation is a neutral fact, the result of certain reactions and interactions between qualities of an individual and qualities of an individual's environment. There is no element of choice involved: The giraffe does not get to choose to make her neck longer. But when an essentially evolutionary model is adapted to human behavior, the very concept of adaptation has itself to be adapted. Levinson argued that each individual had the choice to make certain decisions in any life phase to choose a more adaptive or a less adaptive path.

The fact that there is a clearly laid out path for each individual reflects the biological/Darwinian basis of the model. The fact that individuals can make decisions about whether to keep to the arc of greatest adaptiveness or not illustrate its constructivist model. (the fact that in general it fails to acknowledge in any way the influence of culture and social in determining what is adaptable for the individual demonstrates the fact that like others in his generation, Levinson had not yet begun to consider the fundamental claims of social psychology.)

An examination of one of Levinson's specific stages will help illuminate the above parsing of the basis of his model. For this we will look at the phase that Levinson called early adulthood. Levinson defines this period as running from age seventeen to age forty-five and as being marked by the attributes that serve a person establishing his (or her) career. (Levinson was mostly focused on men.) the axiological basis of this model is that people are most accurately conceived of as individuals who have significant power over their own destinies. His model of men (and to a much lesser extent women) is that they must make their own decisions and that, because they have the power to make these decisions they are therefore responsible for them.

If Levinson's model is accurate, then individuals in this period of their lives should be able to articulate the fact that they are personally ambitious and focused on their careers as being much more important than other concerns. However, studies have generally not upheld such a conclusion.

It follows from the above epistemological and axiological underpinnings of this model that individuals should be able to identify the period of their lives that they are currently as well as being able to identify the choices that they made to enter this phase and to designate the goals of this period. Of course, individuals are unlikely to use the precise same language that Levinson used, but if his model is in fact an accurate one, and is based upon social constructivist principles at least in part, then it should be relatively transparent to any individual who has the model explained to him or her.

This has, however, not proven to be the case in a number of different studies that have sought to test the validity of Levinson's model. After examining two of these studies, a broader discussion of why there should be so little clinical or experimental support for his model. Before going on to provide a more detailed critique, it is important to note that Levinson's model was one that he derived from other theoretical models rather than from experimental data. This is not meant to be a criticism of Levinson: His work mirrored in its methodology the work of others of his generation such as Erik Erikson. The work that they did not was unthoughtful and certainly took into account observations that they had made about individuals. But the basis for his model was not a large body of experimental or clinical data. This suggests (although it is not clear whether or not this would have been clear to Levinson himself) that while his model is based in constructivist ideas, he did not necessarily believe that people were aware of the ways in which they were modeling, determining, or understanding their own choices and behavior.

One study that supports the above was conducted in 1980 by Rush, Peacock, & Milkovich. The researchers used qualitative methods to determine if a large group of working adults felt that their lives aligned with Levinson's model. Looking back at Levinson's own model from the vantage point of our point in psychological research, it is difficult to understand why he would not have done similar research himself. It is impossible to know how people divide their life into different phases without asking them questions about this topic, and yet Levinson and his contemporaries failed to do so. More than this, they did not see the reason that such a research schema would be beneficial.

What Rush, Peacock, & Milkovich found was that a group of professionals did not connect their own experiences with Levinson's stages. Moreover, while they did find some basic accuracy in the different stages that he described (that is, they recognized the fact that many individuals pass through these stages) but they did not associate these stages with the same ages that Levinson had posited.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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