Mid Life Crisis Research Paper

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Midlife Crisis

A perspective on the Issue of Midlife Crisis

The concept of midlife crisis was first purposed by Elliott Jaques in 1965. Jaques introduced the idea in 1965 in a paper on the working patterns of creative geniuses. Examining the careers of a number of composers and artists, he found abrupt changes in style or declines in productivity around the age of 35. Gail Sheehy popularized the phrase 10 years later in her book Passages, giving Dr. Jaques credit in a footnote.

Jaques (1965) noted that in the course of a life time there are critical phases which "have the character of change points, or periods of rapid transition." One of these phases occurs in the mid-thirties and may run on for some years, the exact period varying among individuals. The transition is often masked in women by the proximity of the onset of changes connected with menopause. In men the change has been associated with the reduction in the intensity of sexual behavior which often occurs at that time.

What has come to be known as a midlife crisis is initiated in many people when they realize there life may be more than halfway over. Often it is the result of transitions experienced during these years such as the death of parents, unemployment or under employment, children leaving home, or a realization that a job or career is unsatisfactory. This time is characterized by a desire to make significant changes in the basic aspects of one's life or situation and may manifest itself in the pursuit of a career change, marital difficulties, romantic relationships, large expenditures, or changes in physical appearance.

Factors that Influence Midlife

Midlife crisis has never been a formal diagnostic category. Rebecca Clay (2003) notes that midlife, the years between 40 and sixty are the least charted territory in human development. Most researchers focus on childhood, old age, or adolescence and subsequently there is a large volume of misinformation and un-validated premise contributing to a misunderstanding of this stage of life.

Resent research has focused on the stressors unique to midlife, identifying factors that assist in predicting a healthy middle age and signs of cognitive decline. Clay (2003) reports midlife stressors the day-to-day events that impact one's life gives a more accurate account of an individual's well being than rare events like the death of a loved one or divorce. While young adults experience day-to-day stressors more frequently, midlife adults experience more overload stressors brought on by engaging in too many activities at one time. There are differences between genders however, midlife women experience more stressors from multiple domains like work and family than men, and report higher levels of distress as a result.

Socioeconomic status is also a factor in how one experiences stress. Midlife people with lower educational status report the same number of stressors as those with higher educational status; however they are more likely to rate stressors as more severe. The presence of these stressors does not indicate a propensity toward a midlife crisis. The reason people have these stressors is that they actually have more control over their lives than earlier and later in life. Many people describe these stressors in terms of meeting the challenge (Clay, 2003).

There are factors that put certain men at risk of the kind of distress that was once thought to be an almost inevitable part of male midlife. Men's vulnerability is related to "gender expansion" which occurs as men become more nurturing and women more assertive at midlife. Men who perceived their mothers as strong and domineering and their fathers as weak and ineffectual suffer when they and their wives undergo this shift. They tend to make unconscious and fanciful projections that they will end up like their fathers and their wives like their mothers. The result is psychological distress (Clay, 2003).

Another factor that may lead to psychological distress in midlife is choices made earlier in life pertaining to work and relationships. Research shows people who had switched jobs early in adulthood reported experiencing a greater sense of productivity in work as well as a greater desire to leave something of your self behind for future generations than those who settled down and stuck with an occupation for 20 years or more. On the other hand, divorce and other changes in personal relationships in early life had a detrimental effect on midlife mental health (Clay, 2003).

Other researchers focus on intellectual ability at midlife. Research indicates people at midlife score higher on almost every measure of cognitive functioning than they did when they were 25; verbal ability, numerical ability, reasoning and verbal memory all improve by midlife. The only ability that declines between 25 and midlife is perceptual speed, the ability to quickly and accurately perform such tasks as deciding whether two ZIP codes are identical. There are indications that there may be a decline in cognitive functioning by the second half of middle age, from the mid-50s to early 60s, however even with the declines people's abilities are still well above what they were in young adulthood (Clay, 2003).

Lifespan Perspective: Putting Midlife in Context

Change is constant and a part of every stage of life. Individuals play an active role in shaping their development by setting and pursuing goals, however, they do not set and pursue goals in a social vacuum. Society places constraints on an individual's ability to be proactive in directing and shaping his or her development as determined by age appropriate social conventions (Freund, Nikitin & Ritter, 2009).

A lifespan perspective seeks to understand change though interpretation of an individual's situation and culture. Lifespan development covers all stages of development and progress from an individual's birth to their death. According to John Santrock (1999) there are many characteristics that define what lifespan perspective is in relation to human development. Lifespan perspective is life-long, continuous, and is not dominated by any one age period. The lifespan perspective is influenced by the past thus making it historically-embedded. Another feature of the lifespan perspective is that it is multidisciplinary, being studied in many areas of science such as psychology and anthropology. Finally the lifespan perspective is contextual meaning the individual continually responds to and acts on contexts, which include a person's biological makeup, physical environment, and social, historical, and cultural contexts.

Developmental Domains

There are three key developmental domains in the lifespan perspective. The physical domain deals with the physical changes that an individual goes through. Height, shape changes, weight fluctuations and puberty are all physical changes that can be identified within the physical domain. Along with physical changes, changes in a person's perception and how he or she experiences the world can be categorized within the physical domain. The cognitive domain deals with cognitive issues such as thinking, the decision making processes, and memory. Any cognitive function is classified within this domain. Lastly, the social domain includes changes in variables that are associated with the relationship of an individual to others. For example, studies of children's social skills and research on individual differences in personality fall into the social domain (Boyd & Bee, 2006).

Eight Stages in Human Development

The stages of human development examines the different periods of life that an individual experiences. Psychologist Erik Erikson developed the theory of human development and identified eight stages that an individual experiences during the course of a life time. As each stage is resolved it establishes the person's personality and social behavior influencing the social and cognitive domains. From birth to one year an individual experiences the trust verses mistrust stage. This is a critical period for a child as the presences or absence of a parent or caretaker determines whether or not the child develops trust in his or her self as well as the world at large. Ages one to three are classified as early childhood. This period is known as the autonomy verses shame and doubt stage. It is during this stage of life that children develop new physical skills that enable them to have more choices. It is through these choices that a child develops personal will. Age three to six is middle childhood; this stage involves initiative verses guilt. During this period children are oriented to accomplishing goals through organized activities. Games teach children how to follow rules, achieve goals and assists in establishing a sense of purpose. Age's six to twelve is late childhood. This stage is known as industry verse inferiority. It is during this period that children are introduced to social norms, including those germane to educational institutions and develop competence. Twelve to eighteen is the identity verses role confusion stage. It is during this period that an individual experiences puberty. These changes promote a more mature outlook on life. Individuals are able to examine the consequences of personal choices and develop a sense of personal values. The period between eighteen and thirty is the intimacy verses isolation stage. This is the period in one's life where many decide to marry or… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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