Psychosocial and Developmental Theory Interview

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¶ … Psychosocial and Developmental Assessment of Midlife

Erik Erickson's theory of social development, which originated in 1950, centered on the notion that that there are eight universal ego stages through which all human beings evolve. These are: (1) Infancy (Birth-2 years) in which Trust vs. Mistrust is the key issue of conflict, and the ability to develop confidence while being dependent is the primary challenge; (2) Toddler (2-3 years) - During this stage the central conflict centers on Autonomy vs. Shame and the predominant challenge is the ability to adjust to social rules; (3) Early Childhood (3-6 years)- This is the stage in which Initiative vs. Guilt represent the prime conflict and learning social limitations on behavior is the main challenge; (4) School Age (6-11 years) - In this stage, Industry vs. Inferiority is the subject of conflict and mastering culturally relevant skills is the ultimate challenge. Adolescence according to Erickson culminates in the triumph of Identity over Rule Confusion. The last three stages, the adult stages, consists of conflicts relating to Intimacy vs. Isolation, Generativity vs. Stagnation, and Integrity vs. Despair and challenges that encompass the establishment of love and intimacy in relationships (Erickson, 1950). The Generativity vs. Stagnation stage is most closely associated with midlife, and this is the primary focus of this paper.

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Many developmental theorists of the past painted a picture of midlife that was rather bleak. Theorists such as Erikson (1950) and Levinson (1978) essentially described middle age as 'the beginning of the end'. This is partly because, until relatively recently, middle age was not technically considered to be the middle of life. Most people still considered middle age to be around 40-45 even when people rarely lived past seventy. Today, however it is a much more literal term. Now that people live longer, 40 to 45 is much closer to being the actual middle of the life span.

Interview on Psychosocial and Developmental Theory Assignment

Because of these changes, there have also been changes in how people view midlife. No longer is it seen by most people as a time to get ready to retire and ease into old age, but many consider it to be the prime of life. Many people in their 40s and 50s today are just as active and energetic as people in their 20s. In addition, they have so much more to keep them busy than they did in the past -- especially women -- so now when their children leave home they do not sink into a depression but instead take advantage of the freedom that an empty nest offers (Gould, 1998).

Erikson's developmental stage theories perceive middle age as a time to reflect on the past, rather than a time to continue planning one's future. They seem to assume that once an individual turns middle aged, there is nothing major left for them to accomplish; they are merely 'winding down' to the end of their life and passing what they have learned onto their children.

Levinson's developmental stage theories perceive middle age as time of emotional instability and insecurity. He asserts that in the ages of around 40 to 45 adults tend to experience what is popularly known as a "mid life crisis" in which they desperately try to recapture their youth because they cannot face the fact that that the 'end' is looming closer. My interview with Colleen, however, showed that neither of these scenarios has to be the case.

Part II

My interview with my 46-year-old Aunt Colleen, proved that midlife should no longer considered to be the 'beginning of the end'. She is at the height of her career as a physical therapist. She is in great physical shape and she is active in tennis and other sports. She also exercises her mind regularly when she and her husband Jeff attend a live trivia game once a week. Of her three sons, only one still lives at home while attending college. One is in the Army and is currently deployed in Iraq and the other is living with his girlfriend in a different city.

Colleen met her husband Jeff early when they were in college. She was in her Senior year and he was in his Junior year. Colleen graduated with a degree in physical therapy and her husband graduated a year later with a degree in computer programming. Her feet were firmly on the ground and she had a bright future ahead of her. She was planning her life with Jeff and looking forward to her career as a physical therapist, but she also wanted to raise a family. This was a time when women were already relatively common fixtures in the workplace, however there was still some pressure, as there is today, on the woman to be the one to stay home and raise the children. When I asked her if she was afraid that she would not be able to juggle both her career and her family she answered that she was scared, but that she knew many other women who had done it, and she knew she could count on Jeff to help her out.

At midlife, Colleen is aware of how influential her husband has been in shaping her life. Yet she continues to be a strong and independent woman who can make her own decisions. She is still a physical therapist and she also does volunteer work for environmental groups. She has an active physical and social life and does not view herself at all like women in the 1940s and 1950s and earlier viewed themselves at her age. Although she knows that "grandmotherhood" may be around the corner, she said she cannot even image herself being old enough to be a grandmother. She said the whole idea of it "freaks her out" because she feels like she is still in her twenties. In the past, most women heading towards the age of fifty looked at being a grandmother as the next natural step, but today, women are having kids later and focusing on their careers.

Colleen has a very strong sense of self and seems to have a very healthy social life to complement her successful family and work life. She stated that her friends are very supportive of her. She has close-knit group of female friends, most of whom are close to her age. Some are married, some are divorced. They are of a variety of ethnic backgrounds but they all have in common the fact that they enjoy each other's company and they feel and act much younger than they always thought a person was supposed to feel and act at their age.

Part III

In regard to Erikson's theories of development, I believe that Colleen is in the Middle Age Adult stage because she is journeying towards self-fulfillment through productivity. It seems clear that Colleen has circumvented her "generativity" despite the many obstacles that have threatened to keep her stagnant.

In traditional developmental theories, such as those developed by Levinson (1978) and Erikson (1950), with the transition to midlife, people appear to stop looking forward, considering goals to be achieved, and begin to look backward, reviewing the past rather than preparing for the future. However Colleen provides a perfect example of the inaccuracy of these suppositions.

In recent years, midlife often has been depicted as "the good years," a time for relaxing and enjoying leisure time after the children are grown. Advertisements for exotic vacations or second homes show active, vigorous and affluent couples in their middle years with the time and resources to do what they want. Midlife women and men often are shown beginning new careers or pursuing new hobbies, often because their affluence allows them to take risks (Gould, 1998). Colleen fits into this depiction perfectly. Certainly not all people at midlife are financially able to pursue the types of activities that Colleen and Jeff are, but it is not all about money. It is about changing attitudes, a longer lifespan and a new array of opportunities, especially for women.

Of course for some, these changes result in added stress. As a result of increased life expectancy, Americans at midlife today are grappling with numerous concerns that were not faced by their great grandparents. At the turn of the 20th century, most breadwinners expected to work as long as possible. Many died young and their families survived as well as they could. Women worked because of economic necessity, especially if they were single or widowed. Child labor was common, and many parents relied on their children's contribution to the family income (Lachman, 2001).

Midlife adults today face a very different future with the likelihood of spending many years in retirement. Regardless of family composition or income, some major focuses of midlife Americans is employment, present and future economic security, and retirement planning. Inter-generational relationships represent another major midlife focus. Relationships among family members undergo transformations as children reach adulthood and parents begin to show signs of aging (Lachman, 2001).

According to Birren and Schaie (2001) the status… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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