Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 1 CHAPTER 6. MIDDLE AGE, 35-60: REACHING THE HALF WAY MARK THE INFLUENCE OF JUNG AND ERIKSON ON THEORIES OF MIDDLE AGE Carl Jung Erik Erikson’s Stage Seven: Generativity versus Stagnation M iddle Adulthood and G enerativity STAGE THEORIES OF MIDDLE AGE George Vaillant Ro ger Gould Daniel Levinson 's Seasons of a Person's Life Eras and Major Transitions Developmental Periods The Midlife Transition (40-45) An Evaluation of Levinson's Seasons and Stage Theories of Development MIDDLE AGE TRANSITIONS Is There a M idlife Crisis? M enop ause a nd the Emp ty Ne st M enop ause The E mpty Nest “Boom erang K ids,” the N ot So E mpty Nest Grandparenting Changes in Gender Roles Changes in Sexuality M iddle Age as the “Prime of Life” PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT IN ADULTHOOD Do Ad ults Change? The D ispositional Traits Approach to Persona lity Stability in the Perso nality of In dividua ls People Who T hink They Have Ch anged Stability of Personality Traits From Childhood Age D ifferences in Personality Traits Explanations For Stability and Change Personality as a Function of Biology The C ase for chang e in Personality The Effect of Context on Personality Development The Impo rtance of M otives in Personality THE END OF MIDDLE ADULTHOOD The Recognition That One Is No Longer Young SUMM ARY Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 2 CHAPTER 6. MIDDLE AGE, 35-60: REACHING THE HALF WAY MARK Yo u may have he ard it said that age is a state of mind a nd to some extent this may be true o f our percep tion of m iddle age. W hen adults are asked when middle age occurs, their answer depends on their age; older adults perceive it as occurring in the age range of 40 to 70, which is later than young adults who place the age range from 30 to 55 (Lachman, Lewko wicz, Marcus, & Peng, 1994). Ob viously, the definition of middle age is to some extent arbitrary, but generally it can be considered as beginning at 35 and ending at age 60. This long interval of 25 years begins at a time when most adults still view themselves as “young,” but it ends when adults begin to view themselves as becoming “old.” This can lead to many conflicting perspectives on middle age, depending on which portion of this p eriod is emphasized. In general, m ore p ositive attitudes are exp ressed in pop ular culture for those in early middle age who are “on their way up,” and these attitudes become more negative for those in late middle age who might be thought of as “over the hill.” M any ad ults view the latter passage o f midd le age humo rously, celebrating their 40th and 5 0th birthday p arties in homes draped in black balloons with friends who would make “hilarious” comments about calling the fire department when the birthday victim’s cake candles are lit and who laugh uproariously during the reading of birthday cards that describe the birthday person’s declining intellectual and sexual abilities in humorous detail. Middle age is often depicted as a boring period in adulthood, generating little excitement beyond the pursuit of middle class status symbols and values, and at other times a momentous personal crisis and turmoil when an individual assesses what they have done with their lives and whether they have fulfilled the youthful promise of their lives. The picture of middle age is obviously complex, and recent research suggests it is a more positive period than prevailing stereotypes would have us believe. It is a time of numerous transitions of adult roles that have proved to be fertile ground for theorizing about development. Two theorists, Carl Jung and Erik Erikson have placed their theoretical imprints on middle age development more than any others, and we will see these views reflected repeatedly in the work of later investigators, especially the stage theorists. THE INFLUENCE OF JUNG AND ERIKSON ON THEORIES OF MIDDLE AGE Carl Jung Carl Jung was a psychiatrist who was deeply influenced both personally and intellectually by Sigmund Freud. The two men met in 1906 and began a close friendship, exchanging more than 300 letters, until their bitter breakup in 1913 because of theoretical disagreem ents over the emph asis Freud placed on sex ual mo tivations in huma n behavior. Jung’s the ory is similar to Fre ud’s in its emphasis on the unconscious, but he believed there was a deeper level in the unconscious that was composed of memories that were shared by all humans. Jung called this level the collective unco nscious. Unlike Freud, Jung saw the adult as mo re concerned with spiritual rather than sexual impulses, which led him to emphasize adult development much more than did Freud. To be psychologically healthy, people need to develop the ir inherent human po tential during their adult years through a process of self discovery he called individuation (Jung, 1969). Jung believed this process of self discovery was more pronounced during the second half of life after age 40 than it was in early adulthood. Jung believed middle age was a time of coming to fruition of the whole of an individual’s persona lity that was no t possib le in young adulthood. In the first half of life, a pe rson learns the social ro les he or she will play in his or her culture, but in the second half, a person becomes more aware of the compromises that had to be made in doing so, and what parts of the self were suppressed in the effort to establish one’s place in society. This realization was critical to the process of individuation to allow one access to the opp osing but complem entary forces within the psyche that deal with reality. He called these comp lementary forces dualities. One of these d ualities with which he is often identified is introversion/extraversion. The introversion side of the duality is oriented toward an inner subjective experience, and the extraversion side is oriented toward the outer world. Early in our lives, one end of these polar dimensions tends to dominate our personalities while the other is repressed. As we grow old er, especially after age 40 , the process of individuation causes us to recognize that if we are to develop into whole persons, both ends of the polarity req uire expression in our persona lities. Successfully individuated adults are tuned to both the outer world (extraversion) and the inner world (introversion) in adapting to their environments. Other Jungian dualities consist of feminine/masculine, creation/destruction, you ng/o ld, and separation/attachment. For Jung, the culmination of adult development is when we achieve an acceptable balance of these polar opposites and integrate them within our personality. Both of these ideas, the existence of psychological dualities and the middle-age as a time of successful individuation have been important influences in later theory and research. Erik Erikson’s Stage Seven: Generativity versus Stagnation Compared with Jung, Erikson has had a greater influence on thinking of adult development through his psychosocial theory of the life cycle. As we have seen in earlier chapters, Erikso n presents an optim istic and com plimentary view of the potential of adults in their development, but it is never more obvious than in his description of his seventh stage that occurs during middle age. It is during this time that attention is directed away from the self and turned toward caring for o thers and for the well-being of future gen erations. Erikson ca lls this shift in focus generativity. The generative adult is one who is motivated to support those who are in need or who could benefit from his/her suppo rt and knowledge . Erikso n believed the mid dle-aged ad ult was more inc lined to mento r others than to continue working merely for his or her individual success and accomplishment. Parenting immediately comes to mind as a generative activity, but the fact that Erikson emphasized the later period of middle age suggests that generativity occurs after much reflection on Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 3 one’s own life and the lessons learned. The knowledge and wisdom gained can then be passed on to the next generation. Although generativity that contributes to the growth and betterment of others, especially the young, appears to be motivated by altruism, Erikson’s generativity stage was perso nally rewarding and self-fulfilling. But as in other Eriksonian stages, there are those w ho fail to successfully resolve the dominant psychosocial crisis of their stage because of a psychological turning inward and a tendency to focus exclusively on the self. Those who d o so live their lives imbued with a sense o f emptiness and a lack o f meaning because of their self- absorp tion, egocentrism o r self-indulgence, a pattern Erikson calls stagnation. In contrast to the positive feelings o f generativity, those with feelings of stagnation have lived their live s without creating a lasting legacy that will continue beyo nd them, and there is little they have acco mplished that they can point to with a so urce o f pride (Erikson, 1963 ). M iddle Adulthood and G enerativity The lack of specificity in defining generativity makes it a difficult construct to test empirically and the results of cross- section al studies do not find greater generativity during middle age alone (Keyes & Ryff, 1998; R yff & H eincke , 198 3; Ryff & Migdal, 1984; Ochse & Plug, 1986). In these studies the oldest and youngest groups tested were often as likely to be generative as the middle- aged groups. There have been few longitudinal studies that have specifically investigated whether generativity changes with age, though one study (Vaillant, 1993) purpo rted to find that the percentage of men who reached the stage of generativity increased in a fairly linear p attern fro m age 25 to age 60. Unfortunately, the results of other investigations are more ambiguous (Ho ward & B ray, 1988; Whitbourne, Zuschag, Elliot, & Waterman, 1992). The absence of a correlation of generativity with middle-age may be related to the many different ways it has been defined and measured. For example, generativity has been defined as raising and caring for one’s own children, teaching and educating children in school, mentoring a young business associate, creating artistic and intellectual products that form a legacy, engagement in civic o bligations, or an expressed conc ern for future generatio ns. Ob viously, the conc ept is quite b road , and thu s, it is not surprising that “genera tivity” can b e found at various ages. Abigail Stewart and Elizabeth Vandewater (1998) brought greater clarity to whether generativity is more likely to occur during middle age by dividing generativity into three parts: the desire for generativity, the felt capacity for generativity, and generative acco mplishment. They then analyzed longitudinal data of women college graduates to determine if the types would be more likely to occur at some ages rather than others. Their results showed the desire for generativity peaked in early adulthood and then declined . The felt capa city for generativity peaked in m iddle adulthood and then declined only slightly. Finally, generative accomplishment rose through adulthood untill it peaked in old age (Figure 6.1). The authors sugge st that one of the reasons why middle age is identified as the time when generativity occurs is because all three o f its forms are relatively strong at that time, especially the felt capacity for generativity. The authors also hypothesize that there is an optimal developmental progressio n in the develo pme nt of generativity over the life span. Generativity begins with the form ing of future gene rative go als in early ad ulthoo d, which can then be carried to fruition in midd le age. Ho wever, if individuals are d elayed in their gen erative desires until middle age, these desires appear “off-time” and o ut of sync with the rest of what is happening in their lives. Most adults in middle age feel they have the capacity for acting generatively, and that they should already be making contributions to the wider com munity. In support of their hypotheses, Stewart and Vandewater found that although generative desires were unrelated to well-being in early adulthood , they were positively related to generative accomplishments and higher ratings of we ll-being in m iddle age. Figure 6.1. Hypothetical model of the course of However, generative desires appearing in persons at middle age were generativity in adulthoo d. Adapted from Stew art & negatively correlated with feelings of well-being. Vandewater, 1998, p. 95. Whether one is inclined to act generatively may be aided by further education. C orey Keyes and C arol Ryff (199 8) observed a p ositive relationship between generativity and ed ucation in a cross- sectional national sample of more than 3,000 adults ranging in age from 25 to 74. They offer as an explanation that education causes persons to see themselves as having greater resources for generative actions as well as providing greater knowledge of people’s needs and the means by which they cou ld be cared for. Furthermore, education fosters generativity by inculcating the belief that one feels more worthwhile and socially integrated by being able to give something of value to society in return. STAGE THEORIES OF MIDDLE AGE In the writings of both E rikson and J ung, there is an emph asis on a chan ge in a p erson ’s psycho logical orientation oc curring in midd le age that hold s the promise of future fulfillment. T his chan ge in perspe ctive during m iddle age ha s intrigued George Valliant, Roger G ould and D aniel Le vinson, who are often identified with a stage theory app roach in adult development. The idea of orderly stages in adult development based on age -related crises has shown considerable acceptance among the public, if the sales of books, such as Gail Sheehy’s Passages (1976), Pathfinders (1981), and New Passages (1995), are any indication. Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 4 Sheehy’s books focus on interviews with people and the problems they faced at different “stages” of their lives and how they successfully or unsuccessfully overcam e their problems. H er first book, Passages resonated with many people who were looking for answe rs to the unexp ected problem s in their lives a nd it quickly became a be st seller. T he idea of stages in adulthoo d is an intuitively appealing concept that is carried over from theories of child development. Unfortunately, the concept is often used in ways that are useless in explaining be havior. For e xample, a child of two, who is resistant to his parents’ efforts to direct his activities by loudly declaring “NO!,” can be said to be in the stage of negativism that comes with being a toddler, but merely naming a behavior as part of a stage is not the same thing as giving an acceptable scientific explanation of the phenomenon. In fact, stages are often used in a circular form of reasoning. Why does the child say no to all requests? Because he is in the stage of negativism. How do we know he is in the stage of negativism? Because he says no to all requests. We wo uld like a better answer as to the cause of the negative behavior, such as what kind of cognitive changes or social experiences have caused the child to respond differently to his or her parents. This same tendency to use the description of a stage as the basis for why it exists is often p revalent in the theories o f adult development and is one of the reasons why they are often criticized. Although biological maturation plays a large role in determining stages in childhood, it is of limited value for adult stages. Adult stage theorists argue that age is often closely related to rather universal adult experiences or cognitive changes. A general pattern for most adults is being educated prior to early adulthood, finding a mate as a young ad ult, having children shortly thereafter, launch ing children in m iddle age, and retiring from an occ upation in late middle age or early old age. The changes that occur in the perception of oneself and others, and the changes in expectations and respo nsibilities that occur in transitions from one role to the next, are the im petus for stage-like differences found in adulthood . Although there is some con sistency in the ages at which adults enter ad ult roles, it became increasingly less consistent in the last quarter of the 20 th century (Rosenfeld & Stark, 1987). Today the ages at which adults enter jobs, marry, have children or retire are becoming less predictable, cre ating problems for stage the ories tha t are ba sed o n regularly occ urring events in adultho od. Stage theories grew out of both a need to make sense out of the largely uncharted territory of adult development and by investigators that were clinical in orientation and training who often relied heavily on subjective self reports and interviews. Although we more clearly recognize inadequacies in these theories to day, they were very influential in the initial de scription of ad ult development during midd le age. George Vaillant George Vaillant’s theory of the life cyc le, base d on work begun in 19 38 known as the G rant Study of A dult D evelo pme nt, is on one of the longest running prospective studies of development (Vaillant, 1977; Vaillant & McArthur, 1972). Of the three stage theorists we will discuss, Valliant by far had access to the most data on adult development. He was the least concerned of the three about delineating specific ages and stages, preferring instead to speak of broad generalizations about adult development that covered wide age ranges. The Grant study began with the study of male Harvard University college sophomores, born between 1917 and 1922, when they 18 years old and continued into their m iddle age. Its stated goal was to describe the life cycle of men who we re physically and socially advantaged in American society. E ach subjec t was interv iewed extensively and given numerous p hysical and me ntal tests. Upon their graduation, the men were followed up regularly through the use of questionnaires. Over the years, the results of this study showed clear evidence that these academically talented young men achieved the high social status that was predicted for them, and by any standard, they would be recognized as successful well-adapted adults. Although Vaillant saw consistent patterns of change in the Harvard students, he viewed them as stages only in a very loose sense of that term. Modal patterns were observed in the better adjusted members of the Harvard samp le, and were perhaps best described by one of the subjects who reported his changing perceptions with age as follows: “At 20 to 30 I think I learned how to get along with my wife. From 30 to 40 I learned how to be a success at my jo b. And at 40 to 5 0 I wo rried less abo ut myself and more about the children” (Vaillant & M cArthur, 19 72, p . 419 ). Yo u may recognize this pattern as weakly replicating Erikson’s psycho social stages of intimacy and generativity. Some periods of adult life were identified as more stressful than others by the Grant men. Vaillant observed that the men experienced their 40s as a tumultuous perio d, which caused them to re assess what had happ ened in the past and w hat they wanted to accomplish in their future lives. Despite the turmoil, by the time they reached their 50s, the Grant men looked back on the period from 35-49, as the happiest time of their lives, and surprisingly saw the period from 21 to 35 as the time of greatest unhappiness. Vaillant and his colleagues considered the G rant men to b e best adjusted during m iddle age, and it was at this time they w ere likely to ado pt a manner of interacting with others that reflected the theme of generativity, just as Erikson had predicted. Evidence for middle-age being a period of successful individuation was the use of more mature ego defense mechanisms, which provided individuals with a better understand ing of themselves and to a greater ability to adap t to changes in their lives. For exam ple, instead of using the defense mechanism of pro jection, which entails attributing on e’s own unacc eptab le thoughts or impulses to others and can create greater risk to relationships with others, successful men used more mature defense mechanisms, such as sublimation, allowing them to express an unacceptable im pulse in a way tha t is both accep table to the self and to others as well (Valliant, 199 3). Ro ger Gould In contrast to G eorge Vaillant, Ro ger G ould make s a much stronger statement abo ut the relation of ages to stages (G ould 1972; 1975; 1978; 1980). Gould began his interest in adult development while serving as a psychiatrist in an outpatient clinic at Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 5 UCL A. W hile treating patients, he began to notice that people of similar ages had commo n problems. Gould was so intrigued that he began to interview his patients about the source of their problems, and to administer questionnaires to both clinical and non-clinical populations to correlate their answers with adult life stages. Although his theory is based on empirical evidence from these interviews and questionnaires, Gould’s conception of adult development owes much to his psychoanalytic background. According to Gould, we all begin as children desiring to feel secure in a fearful world we do not fully comprehend. Adults cope with these fears, much like children, by accepting false beliefs and assumptions about the world and their parents that help to relieve their anxiety, but which distort the objective reality of their world. George Valliant (Vaillant & M cArthur, 1972) also found that achieving a mature independence from one’s parents is a common problem for young adults. He observed that the Grant participants continued to wean themselves fro m their p arents into the 30s, but Gould stressed this childlike d ependence o n parents eve n more. If young adults were to mature successfully, they had to rid themse lves of the se false assump tions that supported their dependence, a task mad e difficult because rid ding the mselves of these beliefs threatened their sense of security. Go uld believed the changes in these assump tions follo wed a series o f stages: Stage one, “Leaving our parents’ world, ages 16-22, ” challenged the first childish assumption of young adults that they will always be dependent on their parents. Young adults must abandon their parents as models and begin to form their own indep endent and autonomo us identities. In stage two, “I’m nob ody ’s baby n ow , ages 22-28,” young adults are mo re inde pendent than stage one , but they are still hampered in their development by the belief that parents will still be there to help when things go wrong. As they begin to see themselves as com peten t adults and no t just as children, they beg in to realize they really are on their own. By stage three, “O pening u p to w hat’s inside , ages 29-34," young adults usually have estab lished a life indep endent of their parents’ hom e and are no w read y to challenge the assumption of the third stage: that life is simple and co ntrollab le. Yo ung ad ults realize that things do not always work out the way they expect them to, even when they try, and even when they “follow the rules.” Life is more complicated and bewildering than it first appeared, and this recognition allows them to come in touch with the parts of themselves and their conflicting need s and values that had been hidden from them b ecause of their childhood beliefs. The pressure of time and the sense of our mortality sets the scene for the fourth stage of the “M idlife de cade, ages 35 -45." For Go uld, it was during this time that death became a personal reality as well as the realization that no one is innocent. All persons possess the capacity for evil. This recognition of the “demonic” allows middle-aged adults to develop a mo re legitimate sense of the self and to relate to othe rs in a mo re authentic manner. Gould’s final stage successfully ends the long search for the inner self. Adults who have successfully challenged the false assumptions of the past reach positive acceptance of who they are and how they have lived their lives. This does not make them immune to the vicissitudes of life, but adults are now able to face their problems with greater strength, armed with the knowledge that their sense of meaning resides within them , rather tha n in external forces. It is clear that for Gould, maturity comes from adults exchanging childish assumptions for a more realistic, albeit a less benign, view of the world and of themselves, and that each stage brings with it a deeper and more liberating understanding of themselves. Mature adults unlike children, accept responsibility for their lives and for the consequences of their actions and they have faith and confid ence in their ab ility to make their lives successful. Daniel Levinson 's Seasons of a Person's Life Of all the stage theories, D aniel Le vinson's theory of the seaso ns of a p erson 's life has been the most influential and d etailed. More tha n Go uld and V alliant, he has emphasized set ages for stages, and the importance of life crises and transitions in development, which have become a focus of research in middle age. For these reasons his theory deserves a more detailed exposition. Levinson became interested in the study of adult development at age 46, after he experienced a troubling period in his own life and came to believe in an inherent pattern to the human life cycle that gave rise to the issues he faced at midlife. To investigate the validity of this proposition, Levinson and his colleagues from Yale University set about studying men who ranged in age from 35-45, (Levinson, 1 978 ; 1980; 19 86). His sam ple wa s not represe ntative o f the populatio n, but co nsisted o f business exec utives, ho urly workers, novelists, and biologists working at prestigious universities, all of whom resided in the Boston area. His sample of participants was highly educated, 70 percent having graduated from college. Although the subject sample was greatly restricted, Levinson did not think this was a shortcoming of his study. Instead, he believed these constraints would allow him to better observe the course o f development that might be hid den in a sample of men that were chosen randomly. Levinson and his associates were also criticized for not including a single woman. Levinson called his method of data gathering biographical interviewing. The data collected relied heavily on the subject's own self reports, and little effort was made to confirm the veracity of these reports with other people. The data ama ssed using these methods were huge, and might add up to 300 typed p ages per subject! In addition to the interview data, the investigators sought additional information from biographies, fiction, poetry, and drama to provide greater insight into the critical features of the stages of the life cycle. Once an individual subject’s data was complete, Levinson and his colleagues worked co llectively to create biographies that wo uld provid e the basis for ge neralizations about adult develo pme nt. Eras and Major Transitions In his theory, Levinson describes a life cycle that is intuitively appealing. He divides the life cycle into Eras that last approximately 25 years and overlap with one another during major transitions (Table 6.1). Each E ra is likened to a season having a Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 6 special character and place, and which serves the purpose of providing order and sequence to the period s of the cycle of life. The sequence of eras is, Childhood and Adolescence, occurring from 0-22 years of age, Early adulthood, 17-45 years, Middle adulthood, 40-65 years, and Late adulthood 60 years and above. Each of the Eras is linked by major cross-era transition periods, which cause the age ranges of eras to overlap with one another. Individuals make majo r changes in their lives during each of the se transitions in order to bring them closer to the lives they desire to live. Transitions take between four and five years to complete. Levinson is very definite about the length of these intervals, and strongly asserts they are never less than three or more than six. The three major transitions are Early adulthood transition, 17-22, Mid-life transition, 40-45, and Late adulthood transition, 60-65. There also are transitions of lesser consequence that occur within each Era. The key concept in Levinson’s theory of adult development is the Life Structure. The Life Structure determines the character of the life cycle at the various ages. Levinson described it as the individual’s plan or design for how his life should be lived at that point in time. It answers the question: “W hat is most important to me in my life, and how should I devote my time and energy?” The Life Structure is composed of the components a person has chosen as an answer to that question. It can be an important relationship with parents, spouses, children, bosses, protégées, or with a social entity, such as a political party, or with an object, such as a book, or with a place, such as a mountain retreat. Compo nents of the life structure can be anything that give special meaning, purpo se, and direction to one’s life. Because Levinson assumes that the life structure is limited to one or two comp onents, or at mo st three, the choices made in comp onents will have crucial conse quences o n how one’s life is lived, and the satisfaction on e gains fro m it. The reason for this is that in making one choice, the individual moves in a particular life direction, however, in so choosing, it requires that he m ove away fro m others. Fo r exam ple, some o f the Levinson m en cho se their careers as the m ost imp ortant compon ent in early adulthood, and this choice provided many of them with much satisfaction, but there was a catch. No life structure is permanent, and no matter how satisfactory it appeared at first, it could not last forever. Adjustments had to be mad e. M en who concentrated on their caree rs realize d that they missed impo rtant eve nts in the lives of their children . The ir choice of the e xtra ho urs at wo rk to further their careers ap peared short sighted at later stages when they realized their loss. The p oint is made clear throughout Levinson’s stages; sooner or later, satisfaction in a life structure declines as the person realizes its limitations, and the parts of his or her life that have been neglected. F laws in the Life Structure b ecome o bvious during transitio ns, and the individual b ecomes inc reasingly motiva ted to modify them in an attempt at creating more satisfaction in his/her life. Table 6.1. Daniel Levinson’s developmental periods in adulthood. Source: Levinson, et al., 1978. ERAS M ajorTransitions Stages (Perio ds) Era of preadulthood Childhood and adolescence 0-17 Ages 0-22 Early adult transition 17-22 Era of early adulthood Ages 17-45 Entry life structure for Early adulthood 22-28 Age 30 Transition 28-33 Culminating life structure for early adulthood 33-40 Mid-life transition 40-45 Entry life structure for middle adulthood 45-50 Age 50 Transition 50-55 Era of middle adulthood Ages 40-65 Culminating life structure for middle adulthood 55-60 Late adult transition 60-65 Era of late adulthood Ages 60+ Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 7 Developmental Periods Developmental periods form the stages of adult development. Their sequence is invariant and universal, regardless of gender or culture. Develo pme ntal periods alternate between p eriod s of structure-building, when life structures are formed and life goals are pursued within it, and structure-changing or transitional periods, when the existing life structure is terminated and new life structures are created. Although Levinson considered the sequence to be invariant, he did not believe that everyone responded in the same way in each developmental period because the choices of components for creating new life structures is infinitely variable, which creates the wide variations we observe in people’s lives. Once a new life structure is formed, the next stable period begins, and the individual pursues the new goals within that structure. Minor changes to life structures occur at the Age 30 and Age 50 transitions, and, although they can create some anxiety, the degree of change is not as great as those chang es occurring in the Early adult, Mid-life and Late adult transitions. The Midlife Transition (40-45) Of all of the life transitions, the one that o ccurs during midlife is the one that most strongly challenges whether the current life structure has allowed a person to live a satisfac tory and fulfilling life. Acco rding to Lev inson, the great m ajority of midlife a dults experience a moderate to severe midlife crisis. It does not matter whether persons have become more successful in their lives than they ever expected. The forces pushing for a critical reassessment of an individual’s life are imperious, and questions from previous transitions are resurrected with even greater force: “What have I done with my life?” and “Was it what I truly wanted for myself and for others?” According to Levinson, the depth of questioning that occurs at this time will lead to radical shifts in marriages, jobs, and life styles. Eve n in those instances where there is little ou tward chang e, persons in the midlife transition show essential changes in their characters, in their personalities, and in their relationships with others. It is during this transition, more than at any other time, that the neglected parts of the self cry out for attention, and the conflicts in polar sides of the self, expressed in the Jungian dualities of old/young, masculinity/femininity, creation/destruction, and attachment/separation, need to be resolved. Both sides of these dualities in the self must be recognized and integrated into one’s personality. There is a deeper understanding of the destructive and creative forces that coexist in the human psyche than was possible during earlier periods, and a greater awareness of the effect of one’s actions on the lives of others, as well as effect of another's action s on oneself. According to Lev inson, changes made in the life structure in response to a midlife crisis can make the late-forties the most full, creative and satisfying period of the life cycle. Those who successfully traverse this stage feel less tyrannized by the ambitio ns, passions, and illusions of their yo uth, and they feel more d eeply attached to others. At midlife, a person’s greater knowledge of the self and of the adult world and the developing inclination to aid the young er generation com e together to encourage the individual at midlife to beco me a mento r to a young person and to give back to society what they feel they have gained. An Evaluation of Levinson's Seasons and Stage Theories of Development Levinson can be criticized for his method of data collection and analysis since they leave open the possibility for experimenter bias. People’s recollections of their past are subjective and may be related during interviews in a way that puts them in the best possible light, or they may be distorted by current events in their lives that they feel are important. If a participant is currently in a bad marriage it can colo r how they rep ort their relationship with a spo use during ea rlier periods in their lives o r if the marriage is currently a happy one, they may ignore serious difficulties in the past that now seem unimportant. Levinson and his colleagues made few attempts to confirm the accuracy of their subjects’ reports from friends, relatives or spouses. In addition, the vast quantities of material in interviews allowed investigators to pick and choose the data they found “relevant,” opening the possibility that theoretical expectations and bias affected the results. Noticeably absent was the use of psychological instruments to measure mental constructs as well as much statistical analysis of the data collected. Levinson argued that he was studying “lives” in their broad panorama, com plexities, and m eaning fulness that transcended the sp ecific situatio ns in which “variables” are measured psychometrically. Levinson is also adamant on the specific ages that delineate the periods in adult development. He asserts that the ages at which they occur do not vary by more than two to three years at the most, but gives no adequate explanation for it other than it being a product of human evolution (Levinson, 1986). He believes the order and sequence of periods hold true for all adults, regardless of gender, social class, or culture. His first study was roundly criticized for its exclusion of female subjects, which he remedied in a later investigation of 45 women (Levinson, 1996). The results of that study convinced him that women progress through the same developmental patterns as men. Altho ugh Levinso n thought othe rwise, his the ory is clea rly one o f a man’s developm ent within American culture, o r within similarly industrialized cultures. Although there is much to criticize in Levinson’s theory of adult development, there is also much to appreciate. One of the most promising and innovative concepts generated by Levinson and his colleagues is the concept of a life structure that contains the components that organize a person’s life and determines satisfaction, direction, and important life goals. The alternating periods of building and reassessing the life structure is intuitively app ealing, and surely desc ribes m any of the life building activities o f adults. Determining an individual’s life structure compo nents may allow us to better understand the context of an adult’s current behavior and to allow us to better predict its future direction. MIDDLE AGE TRANSITIONS Stage theories have more direct implications for counseling psychologists who deal regularly with people who are Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 8 experiencing problems in living and have less application for the research psychologist. The theories are too general and have a philosophical bent that is helpful in clinical settings b ut which create problems for investigators who a re attem pting to emp irically “test” the theory. B oth stage psychologists and research psychologists have sho wn great interest in the many important social, physical, and psychological transitions that occur during middle age though the empirical investigations of the phenomena often contradicted, rather than supported, the stage theorists. A case in point is what has been called the “midlife crisis.” Is There a M idlife Crisis? Although there have been frequent reports questioning the assertion that midlife crises are inevitable they remain a part of the popular culture. In a recent survey, Wetherington (2000) interviewed 724 adults between 28 and 78 years of age and found that over 90 p ercen t described the mid life crisis in ways that were consistent with the descriptions provided by theo rists who purp ort they exist. Michael Farrell and Stanley Rosenberg, who have studied the midlife crisis extensively for more than twenty years, describe the key features of the conce pt as follows. The end o f young adulthood and the beginnings of middle age was thought to produce a reevaluation of the self, and (potentially) accom panying symp toms o f depression , anxiety, and ma nic flight. Altho ugh there were many variants represented, a true midlife crisis, circa the 1960s and 1970s literature was, first and foremost, a crisis of identity, and such crises were almost always attributed to males; that is, midlife was frequently portrayed, in both popular and scholarly literature, as a time of dramatic personality change and life review. As a predictable life stage event, it was thought to include increased introspection, a realization of time passing (mortality, generativity concerns), and focus on oppo rtunities lost (sexual, relational, occupational) (Rosenberg, Rosenberg, & Farrell, 1999, p. 49). According to Rosenberg and Farrel, stage theories emphasizing midlife crises became very popular in the 1960s and 1970s because they tapped into the then current feelings of alienation, and the questioning of cultural norms, as well as providing a means of redemption. Those who questioned the social norms on which their lives were based, perhaps found greater satisfaction, and greater meaning by emb racing chang es in their lifestyles that emphasized perso nal values. A consistent theme among stage theorists was the commo n experience of a midlife crisis. Daniel Levinson and others contende d that m idlife crises were difficult, if not impossible, to avoid. Eighty percen t of the men in his stud y repo rted a majo r crisis during the midlife period (Levinson, et al. 1978), and his later interviews of women led him to believe that the midlife was a time of crisis for them as well. His female subjects reported that during their midlife transitions, both their marriages and their lives were at their lowest ebb, and they felt a strong need for changes in their life structures (Levinson, 1996). This was especially true among traditional women who had focused on the single role of homem aker and saw their lives as failing to live up to their exp ectations. These wo men desired to m ake greater changes in their life structure tha n wom en who followed caree r paths. Career women, in Levinson’s study, who had combined the elements of work, marriage, and parenting within their life structures appeared to adjust more easily to the midlife transition. The method used by Levinson, Gould, and Vaillant to study midlife crises relied heavily on biographical interviews, but investigators using other methods, such as personality inventories, failed to find evidence of a midlife crisis in the majority of middle- aged adults, or even a sizeable minority. To be sure, there were individuals who experienced midlife as particularly stressful but there were others who e xperienced earlier and later periods as stressful as well. Robert M cCrae and Paul Co sta beg an their investigatio n of the m idlife crisis as believers and sough t to find evidenc e for its existence by looking for changes in personality traits of adults in that age range. They created a Midlife Crisis Scale to help them differentiate who was in crisis and who was not. When they examined the responses to this scale of men in two separate studies, who ranged in age from 30 to 60, (M cCrae & Costa, 1990), they could no t find the slightest evidence of distress or other indicators of crisis in the data, nor did they find significant changes in personality traits during midlife. On the contrary, midlife appeared to be a very stable period. Farrell and Rosenberg (1981), also began their research as proponents for the existence of midlife crisis, but they too became disenchanted with the notion when they found no evidence that life problems were concentrated at particular age periods in a sample of 500 Am erican men. Instead, life difficulties occurred at varied ages depending on the individual, and the difficulties and problem s found at midlife were not uniq ue to tha t period, but had the ir origins in earlier p eriod s. Chiriboga (1989) estimated only 5 percent or less of those in middle age suffer serious midlife difficulties; a percentage so small that it would hardly qualify as even weak evidence for crises being normative during midlife. In addition, Chiriboga found that work at midlife was often viewed as rewarding and challenging, which contrasts with L evinso n's view that adults at m idlife view work as meaningless or demeaning. The idea that the midlife crisis is a normative event in ad ult development has not withstoo d em pirical scrutiny, altho ugh it continues as a pop ular myth. Rosenberg, Rosenberg and F arrell (1 999 ) argue that it continues as a n explanation for midlife development because it is a very good story that gives voice to the stresses and strains of adult life and creates a meaningful organization to account for them, a story that creates a personal myth that helps makes sense of the vagaries of one’s life experience and provides an exp lanation that ma ny find helpful. If you feel your tro ubles overwhelm you at times, you can gain com fort in thinking it is a “stage” you are going through, that you are not alone, and that things will eventually change for the better. Rosenberg and associates contend the mid life crisis mo tif is specifically to cohort me mbe rship. T heir investigation o f life narratives of men in early and late middle age found a shift to the midlife crisis construct during the 50s, and that aspects of it were specific to a cohort of men that cam e of age during W orld W ar II or the K orean W ar. Other co horts have o ther pe rsona l myths to d raw on in exp laining their Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 9 lives, and we may find that as younger cohorts reach middle age, their experiences will not support an explanation of midlife based on the concept of a midlife crisis, and we will perhaps find other explanations taking its place. At this po int, we seem to b e left with the conclusion tha t midlife crises exist m ore in o ur mind s than in o ur reality, but it would be prem ature to reject all aspects of the m idlife crisis. O ther investigators besides the stag e theorists have repo rted a shift in perspective that occurs during the late 40s that is based on the recognition of the real possibility of one’s death. Bernice Neugarten (1966) found evidence for this in the way middle-aged adults shift the way they mark time. Instead of marking time as the number of years lived from birth as they did when they were young, midlife subjects marked time by the num ber o f years left that the y could expect to live. One of Neugarten’s 48 -year-old male su bjec ts expressed this change as follows: “T here is now the realization that d eath is very real. Those things don’t quite penetrate when you are in your twenties and you think that life is all ahead of you. Now you realize that those years are gone and with each passing year you are getting c loser to the end of your life” (Neugarten, 19 66, p . 69). Neugarten reported that the shift in time perspective was a ccompa nied b y an incre ased tendency toward introspection and interiority indicating an increasing p reoccup ation with the inner life. Elliot Jacques (19 65) made the co nnection be tween the grow ing awareness of one's eventual death and the occurrence of a midlife crisis in the lives of artists he studied. He gives examples of how artists’ work was affected by their growing preoccupation with death. An important part of the midlife crisis is the idea that it is a time for reflecting on what a person wants from his/her life, which can then lead to improvement, though it does not appear to be limited to age. Taking stock of oneself may be more com mon in the 40s, but reflec ting on o ne’s life is a co mmon practice at other ages as well, and can lead to a perso n mak ing beneficial ch anges in his/her life at any age. A bigail Stewart and her assoc iates found that women in their thirties who ackno wledged their regrets over early adult life choices became motivated to set new goals and to make beneficial changes in their lives (Stewart & Ostrove, 1998; Stewart & Vandewater, 1999). Those who followed through in making these changes showed a higher level of well-being in their mid-forties than those who did not. Interestingly, what women regretted about their lives was often the inverse of what men commonly reported (Levinson et al., 1978). Wo men regret missed opportunities for career and education, whereas men appear to regret not spending as much time with their families as they wished they had . This indicates Levinson m ay be right in his co ncep t of the life structure. W e are limited in the numb er of com ponents we choo se to invest ourselves in at any po int in our lives, and as time passes, those components we have ignored clamor for attention. We then shift our priorities within the life structure in an attempt to compensate for what we missed. It is perhaps best to conclude that events occurring in middle age encourage adults to shift the perspective in which they think about their lives and to reassess how they would like to live them. Although this can occur at any time in the life cycle, the events of midd le age m ake it more likely to happen at that time, though it is unlikely that it will lead to a midlife crisis. M enop ause a nd the Emp ty Ne st Midd le age has long been thought of as a difficult time for women, since it often involves changes in care-taking roles that are often o f primary impo rtance to mo st wom en’s identities (Stew art & Ostro ve, 19 98). Two transitions, menopa use and the “empty nest,” were considered especially psychologically stressful for women beca use they symbolically represent the end of childbearing and child rearing, with the result that women may feel a need to reassess their identities and reorient their lives beyond the daily care of childre n. The acceptan ce of m enopause as a p sychologically stressful event was so ingrained in ou r culture that when the male mid life crisis was first identified as a midlife issue, it was often referred to as the “male menopause” even though the use of the term menopause, signifying the cessation of menses, makes it an obvious misnomer for a male crisis. Although intuitively it may seem that changes in women’s roles as caregivers may make them more susceptible to experiencing midlife problems during menopause and the empty nest, we need to ask the question whether empirical evidence supports such a conclusion. The answer appears to be that it does not. M enop ause A woman usually begins menopause around age 50 and ends it over a period of one to two years. She is considered to be post-meno pausal if she com pletes a year during w hich she has not m enstruated. T he pop ular press has generally portrayed m enopause as a negative exp erience that need s medical attention (G annon, 1998), and popular authors, such as Gail Shee hy, have dep icted it as a particularly troubling experience for women (Sheehy, 1991). In addition, menopause is often accompanied by unpleasant physical symptoms, such as “hot flashes,” a feeling of intense warmth often accompanied by profuse sweating, that may serve to increase a woman’s concern for her physical health and make her more sensitive to physical and psychological changes that are occurring during that time in her life. Although studies of menopause are beset with problems in the use of cross-sectional designs and in the use of selective samp les of wo men who a re rep orting p hysical problems in m enopause, the em pirical data suggest wome n ada pt quickly and readily to this midlife transition. In fact, in a study in which women were extensively evaluated before and after they had gone through menopause, the evidence was that many women viewed menopause as a benign event instead of one that had negative consequences (Matthews, Wing, Kuller, Meilahn, Kelsey, Costello, & Caggiula, 1990). This study separated women into groups that received horm ones and those w ho did not receive any prescrib ed drugs to determine w hether meno pause differed in wo men who w ent through it “naturally.” Before and after comparisons of a battery of measures for both groups showed no differences in Type A behavior, anxiety, anger, total number o f sympto ms, de pression, pu blic self-co nsciousness, stress, or m easures of jo b dissa tisfaction. T he only Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 10 reliable changes evident after men opa use were a decline in introspectiveness and more frequent reports of exp eriencing hot flashes in the “natural” group. W omen who were given hormo nes showed more dep ressive symptoms after menopause, but the authors report that this may be due to preexisting differences in this group rather than being caused by menopause. A longitudinal study of more than 3,00 0 wo men also found no relation be tween meno pause status and measures of depression, feelings of we ll-being and changes in sleep routines (Busch, Zonderma n, & Costa, 1994). The se recent studies buttress the findings of older investigations that found menopause to be a change that caused little difficulty for most women and was welcom ed by some wom en at midlife (Neugarten, W ood , Kraines, & Loo mis, 19 63). Although the research shows that women go through menopa use with little or no difficulty, there are reasons why the event continues to elicit negative beliefs that women experience it as a difficult transition. Bernice Neugarten, in her pioneering investigation of m enopause, found that wome n often c onsidered meno pause to be a taboo to pic, and did not feel the y could discuss it openly with one another, as they did pregnancy and childbirth (Neugarten, 1967). The p aucity of information they possessed about other wom en caused them to respo nd differently whe n Ne ugarten asked how they we re affected by m enopause versus how wom en in general experienced it. If asked about their personal experiences, women in her study were more likely to rate it favorably, but when asked about other wom en, they tho ught it was a nega tive exp erience. Further supporting Neugarten’s co nclusion that a lack of accurate information caused women to view menopause negatively was the commo n complaint of her subjects that one of the worst things about menopa use was not knowing what to expe ct. Although informatio n abo ut menopa use has become more accessible to women than it has ever been in the past, it is interesting that recent studies continue to find that women are generally unknowledgeable or misinformed about menopause (Buchanan, Villagran, & Ragan, 2002) and are likely to harbor a generally negative stereotype of menopa usal wo men (M arcus-New hall, Thom pson, Thom as, & Craig, 200 1). So me o f the blam e can be attrib uted to how negatively menopause is po rtrayed in the mass media and the dearth of reliable inform ation (Gannon & Stevens, 1998). Co nsidering these prob lems, it is surprising how adap tively women hav e responded to this chan ge in their lives. The E mpty Nest The emp ty nest differs from menopause in that it affects both men and wom en, although perhaps not equally since women are more involved in the time consuming p erson al care of their children o n a daily basis. T heir greater invo lveme nt in child care would suggest that women expe rience a greater role chang e than d o me n. Ho wever, although me n may not have bee n very involved with their children during the early years, the empty nest could make them more aw are of the op portunities they have lost in establishing close relations with their children. For these reasons, the view of the popular culture is that the empty nest is upsetting for parents, although there is b eginning to be a slow recognition o f the positive sides of a childless ho me. C aring for children exa cts a hea vy toll in physical, mental, and financial resources, and parent/child conflicts over auton omy, p rivacy and other issues that can make the parental ro le quite stressful and indirectly have a negative effect on the couple’s relationship as well. The results of a cross-sectional study of middle-aged parents that showed families with children in the home were less satisfied in their marriages than families without children supp ort this interpretation (G lenn & McClanahan, 1982). Although children at the time o f the empty nest are beginning to, or are functioning as indep endent adults, many still maintain childhood illusions about their parents. I am always amused at how many of my college-aged students believe their mothers and fathers will be lost without them at home to “liven” things up. They picture their parents climbing the walls longing for the noise and activity that their childre n took with them to college. “H ow will they ever cope?” they ask. T he answer seems to be: “Q uite well, thank you.” Parents miss their children, but not in the ways their children expect. One father told me after leaving his last child at college: “I know they will be doing things I don’t approve of while they attend college, but somehow my not being around, or even knowing what they are doing, makes it easier for me to accept. They have to learn to be independent sooner or later.” The cou ple who has successfully launched their child ren into their own independent lifestyles has much to be positive abou t. They can take pride in a job well done and look forward to playing other roles in their lives, including the possibility of being grandparents. If we look closely, there are also other benefits that come with the empty nest. In an empty nest household, money becomes available to the couple for purchasing items and pursuing activities for personal satisfaction. These may have been previously denied for the “children’s sake.” Time, an increasingly precious commodity as one ages, expands when parents no longer have to spend as much of their day in care taking tasks. It is no lo nger necessary for o ne or both parents to be at hom e to accom mod ate their children’s needs or their schedules of activities, allowing parents more freedom to make commitments to do things with friends and to travel. Finally, with fewer people in the home, the work load of caring for it decreases. All of these things may have been on the minds of 54 midd le class men and women studied by M arjorie Fiske Lowenthall and David Chiriboga (1972) in one o f the earliest studies to investigate the effects of the em pty nest. T hese re searchers found little to suggest that parents were awa iting the event with any feelings of dread. Instead, their subjects looked forward to the departure of their youngest child with a sense of relief, anticipating the estab lishment of a mo re relax ed an d mo re persona lly satisfying life style. Being a parent, however, never ends, and parents continue to advise their children, and provide financial, social, and psychological support if the need arises. K nowing their children are succeed ing on their own is an important factor in their happiness. For exam ple, a survey of midlife parents w hose ages averaged 53 years showed perceived person al well being wa s positively related to the educational and occu pational ach ievem ent of their childre n. Parents who believed their child ren we re do ing well in adjusting to their adult status showed higher self-acceptance, greater feelings of having a purpose in their lives, and stronger feelings of mastery over the env ironm ent (Ryff, Lee, Essex, Schmutte, 199 4). Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 11 One longitudinal investigation attempted to identify how marital relationships are impacted by changes that occur with the empty nest. Lynn W hite and John Edwards (199 0) compared marital and life satisfaction ratings of a national sample of parents, who were surveyed in 1983 and again in 1988. The authors had thought that the launching of older children from the home would bring at least some relief from the stress of pa renting, but surprisingly, it did not. Instead, they found that pare nts experienced a mo dest improvement in marital happiness only after the last child was launched. Apparently the presence of any children in the home is an obstacle in improving marital and life satisfaction. Marital satisfaction ap pears to imp rove during the empty nest and the impro vement may be the result of the coup le reorganizing their relationship toward one in which the spouses have more equal status. There is evidence that the empty nest moves the married couple to positions of greater equity in their marriage and that both men and women view their spouse as more acco mmoda ting and less focused o n their own needs (M enaghan, 1983 ). The dec line in parenting roles that occurs during the em pty nest allows married couples to feel freer to accommoda te the needs o f their spo uses. A reorganization that is d ifficult for parents to achieve when children are present in the home. Although parents react p ositively in the ir marriages and experience m ore feelings of satisfaction when the nest empties, it does not mean that the return of their independent children to the family home for regular visits is accompanied by stress. On the contrary, paren ts truly enjoy the visits of their now independent children to their hom es, and life satisfaction in the empty nest household is greater when it includes the continuing and frequent contacts with the children (White & Edwards, 199 0). There is no doubt that parents love and enjoy their adult children, but their relationships are more positive when their children no longer live in the same house and no longer have to be parented. Even though the empty nest tends to be perceived as a positive event, for some wom en it can be quite stressful if they were socialized in tra ditiona l parenting roles. Th is is evident in resea rch that compared the re actions of women of different generations to the empty nest. Borland (198 2) hypothesized that cohorts of white women, born in the 1920s and 1930 s, would show strong negative reactions to the empty nest. These women grew up after the end of World War II when female employment was strongly discouraged so that re turning se rvicem en co uld find jobs. Instead they were encouraged to find satisfaction through the roles of wife and mother. This socialization in family values and the feminine mystique appears to have been successfully inculcated in these women, as evidenced by demographic data for this cohort, which is unique in the 20 th century. This po st Wo rld W ar II cohort has the highest proportion of women who married at early ages, and who gave birth to large numbers of children in the late 50s and 60s. Their focus on their families and their early marriages made it unlikely that they had much experience in the work force before marriage, and hence, they lacked job skills that they could rely on for later employment after their children left home. The experience of this cohort contrasted sharply with the experience of cohorts born earlier during the 1900s to the 1920s. These women, although socialized toward maternal roles, were also encouraged to seek employment during early adulthood and marriage because of the difficult times of the Great Depression and the U.S. participation in World War II. During the 1940s, the draft of American men into the armed forces opened up occupations for these women that hitherto had only been available to men. Thus, work values for this older cohort of wom en were much stronger tha n those of the younger cohort bo rn in the 1 920 s and 193 0s, who identified more stro ngly with the role of homemaker. Bo rland expected that this younger cohort, which had been so strongly socialized in the maternal role would find the emp ty nest mo re stressful than the o lder cohort. Bo rland’s hypothesis was tested b y Ade lmann , Antonucci, Croh an, and Coleman (19 89). They com pared the re sponses of a cohort of women born be tween 1898 and 1 917 (Co hort I) when they were in their middle age (40-59), with the responses of a cohort born between 191 7 and 193 6. Cohort I was surveyed in 1957 and cohort II in 1976, when each group was be tween the ages of 40 and 59. The measures on which they were compared included whether they were employed, if they had an empty nest, and their feelings of perso nal well b eing. As the investigators expe cted, cohort was an impo rtant facto r in determining the exp erience of the e mpty nest. The younger cohort of women (Cohort II), reported the lowest levels of well-being during the empty nest compared with the older cohort of women (Coho rt I), who reported their highest levels of well-being at the same ages. The young cohort (Cohort II) may have found it difficult to adapt to chang ing roles of mid life since they had lim ited them selves to caretaker roles. Since the design of this study wa s cross-sectional, we sho uld interpret these results cautiou sly, but they suggest that changes in cultural socialization of adult roles play an important part in how we experience our adult lives. It might be anticipated that the current generations of women presently moving toward middle age will experience the empty nest even more positively than Cohort I of the Adelmann et al. (1989) study since they have be en mo re strongly socialized in the value of work in their lives, both before marriage a nd during their child rearing years of marriage, as well as experiencing an expansion of cultural roles for women unprecedented in American history. The empty nest is not so em pty as it once was. “Boom erang K ids”-the N ot So E mpty Nest In recent years there has been much med ia attention paid to ad ult children who return home to live with their parents. These days yo ung ad ults may choose to live longer in their parents’ home s because the age at which they marry is o lder and more emph asis is placed on education and establishing a career. The mo st common reasons for returning home are to save money, attending school, and financial difficulties (Veevers & M itchell, 1998). Despite hyped media reports to the contrary, the return of adult children to the parents’ home has always been a fairly commo n experience that has held steady at about 40 percent since the Viet Nam era (Go ldscheider, & G oldsc heide r, 199 4). T here m ay be factors tha t make it more likely, such as quality of the parent/child relationship Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 12 in the past. A feeling of emo tional closeness with pare nts, especially the mother, is related to whe ther adults co-reside in their parents’ home (Mitchell, Wister, & Gee, 2002). Since self selection factors may be operating, adult children who remain or return to the home may differ in significant respects from ad ult children who d o not and generalizations have to be restricted to those groups. Given the generally high satisfaction of empty nest parents, we might expect that the return of adult children would have negative effects on life satisfaction of parents. There have been reports of negative effects (Clemens & Axelson, 1985) but other studies show the presence of an adult child in the residence of an elderly parent is neither related to an increase in p sychological stress, nor does it automatically lead to declines in satisfaction (Pillemer, & Suitor, 1991b; Suitor, & Pillemer, 1987). In fact, Aquilino and Supple (1 991 ) found more evidence for mutually share d and enjoyed ex periences tha n for disagree ments, and the majo rity of parents reported high satisfaction with the arrangement. The authors suggest that the increased maturity of adult children allowed for the greater enjo yment of social interactions between parents and children than m ay have been the case when the parents were actively parenting. However, if conflict exists between parents and children, it was another matter. It was the strongest predictor of parental satisfaction. One of the sources for conflict was continuing dependency, especially financial dependency, when children were unem ployed. Mitchell and Gee (1996) found that whether or not the return of an adult child affected parental marital satisfaction was related to the reaso ns why a child left the parental hom e the first time. In their study of 172 “boom erang” families, parents were most negatively affected by children who returned home after leaving to pursue work or school than they were by children who left home because they wanted to experience a sense of independence. T he authors suggest that parents may have expected the return of the latter children but the former were thought to be “permanently launched.” Parents were also negatively affected by adult children who repeatedly left and returned home (mo re than two time s), which could be related to more pro blematic behavior of these offspring. However, like the Aquilino study, Mitchell and Gee found marital satisfaction was quite high in general, and that parents coped very well with living with their ad ult children. W hy do many p arents adjust so well to the return o f their adult childre n? O ne of the reasons may be that the child who left the home is not the same as the one who returned. The time spent on their own may have taught them about the efforts that must be made in caring for themselves and the place they reside in. The adult children who return to their parents’ homes engage in more housework, crea ting a mo re equitable excha nge of labor and b enefits with their parents than they had originally. Veevers and Mitchell (1998) found the majority of parents reported their child ren gave them daily or weekly help in p reparing me als, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, and giving emotional support. The number of hours of housework that adult sons and daughters reported doing per week was approximately 14 and 17 ho urs respectively although parents report the number of hours is overestimated especially for sons (Spitze & W ard, 1995). Daughters do more housework than sons, but sons contribute more for room and board (Ward and Spitze, 1996). Regard less, the differences are modest. As adult children grow older they contribute more time to housework, but even though children engage in significant amounts of household work, it is unclear whether they actually do more than the amount that is created by their living there. Grigsby (1989) estimates that parents still provide 80 percent of the household income and complete about three- fourths of the housework. Conflicts over the amount of housework when they occur, depend more on the expectations of the particular childre n and parents involved than they d o on an ob jective measure of the amount (W ard & Spitze , 199 6). The finding that parents and adult children get along so well in boomerang families compared to earlier periods suggests that the cha nge in the active p arenting role is key. Parents are hap py to b e rid of the responsibilities that com e with this ro le, and adult children may even resent a parent who attempts it. The relationship has become m ore peer-like. This freedom from the responsibilities of active parenting may be why so many older parents truly enjoy being grandparents. They can now love and enjoy their grandchildren while avoiding the formidab le responsibilities that come w ith raising children as parents. Grandparenting Recently the interest in grandparenting has mushroomed, reflecting the declines in mortality and the better health of older adults that have mad e grandpa renting a more com mon expe rience than it has ever been in the past. Coinc ident with the decline in mortality has been a decline in fertility. Thus, while grandparents are more common, the number of grandchildren in a family has decreased, making grandchildren a more precious commodity. These changes may be related to evidence showing grandparenthood has beco me a more significant social role for older people with greater po tential emotional meaning and sup port than it had for p ast generations (G iarrusso, Silverstein, & B engsten, 199 6). Interviews with current grand parents paint a picture of emo tional closeness with their grandchildren that contrasts with emotionally distant relationships they remember with their own grandparents (Cherlin & Furstenberg, 19 86). In the past, grandpa rents we re to be respected , but they m ay not have b een as dem onstrative and playfully interactive as they are today. Children were expected to be “seen but not heard” it may have discouraged communication between generations which creates a sense o f closeness and understanding. Nine ty-five perc ent of peop le who marry e ventua lly beco me grandparents, thoug h gend er differe nces in m ortality make it likely that more women than men will survive to become grandparents and great-grandparents. Approximately two-thirds of women live to see the birth of their first great-grandchild, whereas only a minority of men are fortunate to have this experience. Grandparenthood also differs by ethnicity. It occurs earlier and lasts longer for Black and Hispanic women and men than it does for whites. White grandchildren (age 9-18) are more likely to report that one of their grandparents is alive than are Hispanic and Black grand childre n and this is especially true in the case of grandfathers (Szinovacz, 19 98). Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 13 A number of variables are related to grandparent contact with grandchildren. A large national survey of over 4,000 grandparents (Uhlenberg & H ammill, 1998) found that from the grandchild’s perspective, the more sets of grandchildren a grandparent has, the less frequently they see them. However, the more grandchildren a grandparent has, the greater total amount of time they spend in interactions with grandchildren. There was also a small effect for gender. Grandmothers (47 percent) report more frequent contact with grandchildren than do gra ndfathers (38 percent), and grandm others gain greater satisfaction from these interactions (Thomas, 1986). Grandmo thers are less authority oriented in their interactions with grand children, and their relationship s are closer (Aldous, 1995; Eisenberg, 1988; Mueller, Wilhelm, & Elder, 2002). Maternal grandmothers have more contact with their grandchildren than any other grandparent, indicative of the matrilineal nature of relations between families (Uhlenberg & Ham mill, 1998). In addition, mothers who have close relationships with their mothers will encourage close grandparent relationships with their children and provide more opportunities for this to happen. Living near grandchildren also increases the amount of contact grandparents have with them (Aldous, 1995: Cherlin & Furstenberg, 1986). It has been proposed that the matrilineal bias in relationships between grandparents and grandchildren may be partly explained by the closer distances maternal grandparents live to their grandchildren (Sommary & Stricker, 1998). Living closer encourages greater contact between grandparents and grandchildren, which in turn encourages closer relationships. Divorce and remarriage of children affects the grandparent-grandchild relationship and may create problems of access for paternal grandparents if the daughter-in-law feels estranged (Cherlin & F urstenb erg, 1986 ). Ho wever, after a divorce, the relationship may become stronger on the maternal grandparent side if the daughter requests help in raising the grandchildren (Giarrusso, Silverstein, Bengtson, 1996 ). If a parent remarries it can crea te new “step grand children,” a situation bec oming m ore commo n because of higher divorce rates in both younger and older cohorts, but of which very little is known (Szinovacz, 1998). Grand parents who are widowed, divorced or separated see their grandchildren less, especially grandfathers who are half as likely to see their grandchildren as their ma rried counterparts (Uhlenbe rg & Hammill, 1998). T he trad itional ro le that wive s play in a marriage of arranging family gatherings ma y explain why it falls off so much more for men when they are unm arried . Gra ndp arenthood typically occurs in the late 4 0s and early 50s, and today’s middle aged adult is living a more active life style than their predecessors. Today, grandparents are on the tennis court with their young charges teaching them the fine points of the game in contrast to earlier periods. For some, such as the Black grandmothers of children born to their teenage daughters, grandparenthood can come too early and be perceived as “off time.” These mothers in their 30s are often parenting their own children and find providing help to their needy daughters burd ensome (B urton & B engtso n, 1985). The influence of grandparents is more widespread today than fifty years ago. Approximately 70 percent of children report they have more than two grandparents who are living by the time they reach adulthood, but, by the late 20s about half of children have only one living grandparent (Szinovacz, 1998). This increased contact with a grandparent makes it likely that children will learn about the frailties of aging from their grandparents, as well as from the death of a loved one. Mo st grandchildren experience the death of one or more grandparents during adolescence or early adulthood (Szinovacz, 1998). For most older adults, the birth of a grandchild is a cause for celebration. Karen Somary and George Stricker (1998) followed 152 grand parents from before the b irth of their first grandchild to two years after. T hey found that grand parents were more satisfied in the role than they had anticipated. Both grandparents expressed satisfaction in becoming a grandparent, especially the grandmother who reported wanting to be more helpful to the grandchild, and who expected the grandchild to play a more central role in their lives than did grandfathers. Interestingly, these gender differences disappeared after the child was born as grandfathers became as positive as grandmothers in their assessments. Grandmothers may be more accurate in estimating how the birth of a grandchild will affect them, b ut they still underestimated the joy a new grandchild will bring them. Grandmothers and grand fathers saw their ro les in different ways. Grandmothers wanted to be a source of wisdom and knowledge to the grandchild directly, whereas grandfathers saw their role more in the way of giving advice to the parents on how to raise the child. Sex of the grandchild did not seem to affect attitudes of grandparents, but since this study only dealt with first time grandparents when the grandchild was still an infant, it may not generalize to grand parents at older ages. Generally, grandparents adopt what is called the norm of noninterference when interacting with their children and grandchildren. They become involved in ways that benefit intergenerational relationships, but they are careful not to overstep the bounds that are thought to be the responsibilities of the parents. This is they way they like it. Active parenting of a grandchild was not something desired by many grandparents. Many grandparents expressed that one of the more pleasant aspects of grandparenting was being able to devo te themselves to loving their grandchildren w hen they were w ith them, while kno wing at the same time they w ould be go ing home without them (Cherlin & Furstenberg, 19 86). Cherlin and Furstenberg (1986) divide gra ndparenthood into distinct stages. The first begins at the birth of the first grandchild and ends at his/her adolescence. It is during this time when the relationship involves a heavy investment of time and energy in the grandchild thro ugh freq uent babysitting a nd provid ing help with hom ework and other c hild needs. G randparents overwhelmingly report the early years before adolescence to be the most satisfying. The vicissitudes of the teen years influence the grandchild to move away from family activities in the second stage, and this may also coincide with the aging of grandparents who now find it more difficult to provide help and support. In the final stage, grandchildren have their own children and grandparents take on the role of great-grandparents, a role that is largely symbo lic (Cherlin & Furstenberg, 19 86). Over all of the stages, the re lationship changes from one which is parent-like and focused on childhood play, to one that is more voluntary for the child and characterized by Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 14 greater maturity, mutual communication, support and guidance (Mueller, Wilhelm, Elder, 2002; Silverstein & Marenco 2001). How much grandparents become involved in grandpa renting is related to their experienc es with their own grand parents. Ha ving a close relationship with a grandparent was important, although it was not related to having shared a household with them as a child (King & Elder, 1997). The relationship is modest and is no doubt modulated by other variables such as proximity to the grandchild, health and age of a grandparent. Education also played a role in the type of interaction grandparents engaged in with grandchildren. Educated grandparents were more likely to play mentoring roles and to discuss problems and plans for the future, whereas lesser educated grand parents reported more con tact, rated their relationship q uality with the grandchild higher, an d were mo re likely to p lay a friendship role (King & Elde r, 199 8). Age of the grandparent influences the type of relationship that develops. Bernice Neugarten and Karol Weinstein (1964) identified five grandpa rent types. Formal grand parents kept their distance from offering advice on child care; fun-seeking concentrated on enga ging in enjoyab le activities with them; distant figures were remote, had little contact with a grandchild except on special occasions such as birthdays or holidays; surrogate parent were grandmothers who functioned largely as caregivers because of special family needs; and reservoir of family wisdom types were grandfathers who dispensed resources. The investigators found that fun-seekers were typica lly younge r. Older grandparents m ay have health p roblems that cause them to be less involve d with the ir grandchildren and change the types of activities they pursue with them (Cherlin & Furstenberg, 1986; M ueller, W ilhelm, & Elder, 200 2). Cherlin and Furstenberg (1985) divided grandparents into five groups based on the amount of contact, influence on the child, and whethe r services were exchanged. T he types and percentage s in each group were, detached, 26; passive, 29; supportive, 17; authoritative, 9; influential, 19. It would be a mistake however to conclude that grandparents differ by type and interact in the same manner for all their grandchildren. There is a great deal of diversity between grandparents, but there is also diversity within the same grandparent depending on the grandchild (Mueller, Wilhelm, & Elder, 200 2). Although they are careful to express that it is important to love and to treat all grandchildren equally, as many as 29 percent in one study admitted to having a favorite (Cherlin & Furstenberg, 1986). This might be beca use the child lived close by, needed their help, was a first or a last born, was the mo st outgoing, or because there was a closer relationship of the grandparents with the parents. However, having a close relationship with one or a few grand childre n was b eneficial and appe ared to give greater satisfaction in the grandparenting role in general. Grandparents differ by ethnicity, but because ethnicity is correlated with differences in income, education, religion, marital status, numbers of grandchildren, age and other factors, it is difficult to determine the bases for the differences. Perhaps it will suffice to conclude that the grandparent-grandchild relationship is an important source for the learning of one’s cultural heritage and familial traditions desired by most grandchildren regardless of ethnicity and cultural heritage (W iscott & Kopera-Frye, 2000). There is a more troubling side to grandparenthood that has become evident in recent years. The U.S. Bureau of the Census found that from 197 0 to 1 997 , the percentage of children living in househo lds ma intained by grandparents has increased from 3 .2 percent to 5.5 percent (Bryson & Casper, 1999). African Americans are more likely to be surrogate parents than are other grandparents (Szinovacz, 1998). M any causes have been attributed for this increase, such as increasing divorce rates, parental drug use, single-parent households, and teen pregnancy. T he incid ence of grandpa rents raising gran dchildren fo r six mo nths or more is approximately 1 in 10. Although this occurs across all families, custodial grandparenting falls disproportionately on single women, African Americans, and those with low incomes (Fuller-Thom son, Minkler, & Driver, 1997). Grandp arents who take on the responsibility for raising their grandchildren have to make difficult changes in their lives to accommodate them. Just as raising children can create strains for much younger parents having children in the home, raising grandchildren often with behavioral problems of their own, can be a great physical, emotional, and financial drain. Such demands can take their toll on the older person’s adjustment and life satisfaction, leading to a greater need for mental health and social se rvices (Emick & Hayslip, 19 96). Children raised in grand parent hom es are more likely to b e poor and uninsured com pared with p arent m aintained househo lds. Current social services to accommodate the changing roles and responsibilities of grandparents have failed to keep up with these changing needs. Some grandparents may have greater difficulty in meeting their grandchildren’s educational needs because of their own deficient education (Bryson & Ca sper, 199 9). Desp ite all the difficulties it can create, grandpa rents choose to raise their grandchildre n for noble reasons: to pre vent the child fro m be ing separated from his family in foster care and the desire to provid e a secure and loving home for them to grow up in (Jendrek, 1994 ). Cha nges in G ender Roles Carl Jung had argued persuasively that coming to grips with the dualities in our personalities during middle age was a step toward healthy adult development. The Jungian duality of most perva sive influence on our lives is that based o n gend er, exp ressed in the poles of masculinity/femininity. In ways similar to Jung, David Gutman co ntends that during early adulthood when families and careers are established, traditional gender roles dominate the personalities of men and women, and tendencies toward opposite gender- roles are suppressed (Gutman, 1975; 1987). Gutman calls this the "parental imperative," and believes it evolved to ensure a division of labor that would be optimal for the raising of children. Traditional characteristics associated with women, such as nurturance, gentleness, and warmth, are needed for the proper care of children, and masculine characteristics of aggression and the development of environmental competencies, found more often in men, help provide the family with greater protection and security. Gutman does not claim either sex lacks the characteristics o f the other gend er entirely, only that these characteristics are suppressed during parenting. Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 15 Once parenting has p assed, each gender m oves in the direction o f greater andro gyny; women b ecom e more assertive and autonomo us, and men beco me less aggressive and more nurturant and warm. There is evidence in support of Gutman's position. When men and women become parents, they show a greater adoption of traditional gender roles than couples who are childless (Abrahams, Feldman & N ash, 1978). Later in life, after the child rearing years have passed and the couple moves into middle age, there is evidence that the couple moves toward androgyny (Huyck, 1996; 1999). Middle-aged men and women are less likely to describe themselves in gender stereotyped ways compared with young adults (Sinnot, 1986). Persons in middle age are also more willing to acknowledge characteristics of the other gender in themselves, and for many, it becomes a source of pride rather than the embarrassment that was evident at younger ages (Huyck, 1999; Neugarten & Gutman, 1964). It remains to be seen whether the changing gender roles for men and women that began in the 1960s and 19 70s will cause a decline in the differentiation of parenting roles during child rearing, but the increasing numbers of men and women sharing parenting roles suggests androgyny will be in greater evidence in men and women regardless o f their age. Changes in Sexuality The rich and manifold enjoyment of sexual activities d oes not end with youth, but co ntinues to provide m uch pleasure in midd le age and beyond. Fo r many, it serves as a symb olic attac hment with their yo uth. M en and wom en who engage in se x regularly as they grow older view themselves and their bodies as attractive to others, and as possessing greater vitality. However, since sexual attitudes are different for m en and wom en early in their lives, it is no t surprising that me n and wom en co ntinue to think differently about sex in middle age. Susan Sontag wrote a seminal essay in 1972 titled “The double standard of aging” in which she described a number of ways that middle aged women are at a disadvantage in expressing their sexuality. Of course, the importance of physical attractiveness for women can be explained by differences in mating strategies that we covered in Chapter 3, but Sontag’s exposition gives us a greater sense of the psychological aspects of sexual attractiveness in men and women at midlife. Sontag argued that because physica l attractiveness is more im portant for a wom an than for a man, it mak es it more difficult for her to maintain her sexual eligibility as she ages. If a woman is to be considered sexually eligible, she must meet the more stringent standards of attractiveness that apply for women, defined by the slim, lithe, youthful appearance of a girl. Unfortunately, looking like a “girl” lasts for only a very short period in women’s lives. According to Sontag, a more mature standard of beauty as a “woman” does not exist. Wome n are sexually attractive only as long as they m eet the standards of youth. M en, on the othe r hand , remain sexua lly attractive into middle age and beyond because there are two standards for male attractiveness, that of a “boy” and that of a mature “man.” Th ere is evidenc e in the popular culture suggesting So ntag may be right. For exam ple, "Peo ple" maga zine vo ted the movie actor Sean Connery the sexiest man alive in 1989 when he was 59 years old, and Harrison Ford in 1998 when he was 56. It would be unusual for women of similar ages to be so “honored.” These differences in standards of male and female attractiveness also influence our perceptions of relationships in which couples differ greatly in age. We tend to see a relationship in which a man is 20 years older than the woman as more approp riate than we do relationships in which the woman is older than the man. Differences in women’s views on sexuality have negative repercussions on their sex lives as they age. Sontag maintains that as a woman grows older, she is more likely to become less inhibited and more sexually expressive as she frees herself from the inhibitions of societal standards, however, this unfortunately occurs at a time when she may feel that her body no longer meets the youthful standard of beauty, and thus she believes she is unlike ly to attract male sexual interest. There are data that support some of Sontag's ideas. Leslie Margolin and Lynn White (1987) studied married couples who were interviewed over a three-year interval on whether their spouse had shown a decline in their physical shape or a gain in weight and how this affected sexual desire. Men who reported their spouse declined in physical attractiveness while they themselves had not, were twice as likely to rep ort sexual pro blem s, such as a disinterest in sex, than other men. An analogous p attern was not found for women. Appearances were less important. This study did not test for age differences so we do not know if the differences are larger or smaller at different ages, but it appears that physical attractiveness remains more of a factor in women’s sexual relationship than it does for men. There is also evidence of increasing sexual satisfaction in women with age. For example, women more often than men report increases in the frequency of orgasm, increases in subjective pleasure in sexual activity, and greater sexual satisfaction as they age (Adams & Turner, 1985 ). A national survey of American adults found that women in their 50s had the highest percentage among women questioned between the ages of 18 to 59 who reported they “usually” had an orgasm during sex (Michael, Gagnon, Laumann, & Kolata, 1994). Additional research needs to be done to determine how our feelings and our sexual behaviors are affected by societal norms before we can make strong conclusions, but the results so far basically support Susan Sontag’s description. Efforts to counter negative societal images of older people, especially women, has been a goal of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Recently, this organization commissioned a survey of sexual attitudes of a representative sample of Americans 45 ye ars and older. The results o f the survey, completed in March 1 999 , were p ublished in the S eptem ber-O ctober issue o f Mode rn M aturity. The cover of that issue, picturing a mature, but sensuous Susan Sarandon read, “Great sex. What’s age got to do with it?” (Pho to 6.1 ), shows how the perception of wome n in their m iddle age is changing toward a more p ositive im age. G enera lly, the results of the AARP survey found middle aged and o lder adults to be very positive about their sexual relationships, even though the 50s is a time when reported frequency of intercourse declines (Michael, Gagnon, Laumann, & Kolata, 1994). Sixty-seven percent of men and 57 percent of women reported satisfying sexual activities were important to their quality of life, although they also declared a Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 16 quality relationship was more important than sex alone (92 percent men, 87 percent women); abo ut three fo urths of both m en and wom en de scribed their partners as “my best friend.” Underscoring the agelessness of sexuality was the finding that the majority of men and women describe their partners as “physically attractive” in the age range of 45-59 and even showed a slight increase in the age gro up 75+. M iddle Age as the “Prime of Life” Generalizations about middle age are often contradictory because of the nature of competing influences in the lives of adults at this time. On the one hand, midlife adults are perceived as having more stress in their lives from a variety of sources, with little time for relaxation and leisure. On the other hand , they are p erceived to be at the peak of their ab ilities and p roductivity, being more capable of handling stress and with a greater sense of control and purpose in their lives (Lachman, Lewkowicz, Marcus, & Peng, 1994). From our discussion of the transitions occurring in middle age, there appears to be little evidence that it is a time of crisis and o verwh elming stress. In fact, focusing on middle age as a time of crisis has tended to obscure the fact that considerable emotional stresses and strains take place during early adulthood (Veroff & Feld, 1970 ). Generally, research on middle age projects a picture of great stability and calm (Helson & W ink, 1992), so much that one study investigating the quality of women’s lives at different periods labeled it as the “prime of life” (M itchell & Helson, 1990 ). These inve stigators found , in cross-sectional and longitudinal samples of women who ranged in age from 21 to 76, that the highest rated period of their lives was in the 50s. Factors that appeared to be most related to rating the period positively were living in an empty nest and being in good health. There is also evidence supporting the Photo 6.1. The September-October 1999 cover of stage theorists’ idea that both men and women who make corrections during AARP ’s Modern Maturity. middle age are able to live happier, more fulfilling lives (Helson, 1997; Helson & Ostrove, 1998; Levinson et al., 1978; Vaillant, 1977). Part of it may have to do with a changing perception of career. By midd le age, m ost people are in the positio n to make a realistic assessment of their chances for further pro motio n and success in their caree rs, and how m uch person al satisfaction it provides them. A midlife assessment may be at lea st partly responsible fo r declines in occupational ambition that occur for most people during this time (Howard & Bray, 1988). Middle age for many adults is also a time when they feel more free to break away from societal standard s and to live their lives as they would like. Florine Livson (1981) found that men and women in the Oakland Growth Study who had nontraditional gend er-role orientations experienced difficulties in ad justment in ado lescence and early adultho od, b ut reco vered their sense of well- being during their 50 s. Men felt mo re free to express their emotio ns and feelings, and wo men felt more free to express their intellectuality and achievement orientation. It may be, however, that the gender-role standards were more defined during the period of 1950s when the subjects in the Oakland Growth Study grew up, and perhaps the freedom they felt in their 50s may have been due to a general loosening of gender ro les that was taking p lace across society. Additional evidence to suggest that middle age is experienced as a very positive time in most people’s lives comes from longitudinal studies of men and women showing a growth in maturity and competence from the 20s of early adulthood to the 40s of middle age, as well as increases in self discipline, independence, confidence, cognitive abilities, relational skills, coping skills, and ego development (Helson & Moane, 1987; N eugarten, 19 77; V aillant, 19 77). Caro l Franz (1997) found that adults studied from age 31 to 41 d evelo ped greater psychological maturity, com plexity an d persona l integration in stories they were instructed to write ab out their lives. In middle age, the them es of the stories her subjects created were less assertive, less idealistic, less grandiose and less achievement oriented, and the characters portraye d were less wo rried and co nflicted. M iddle-aged subjects were also more likely to write themes of positive, supportive relationships. Although these appear to be changes for the better, not everyone would agree. One of her undergrad uates working on the study succinctly de scribed them in the following wa y: “These guys (pointing to the 41-year-old pile) are more boring” (Franz, 1997, p. 57). PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT IN ADULTHOOD Do Ad ults Change? Anyo ne who has attended a c lass reunion for high school o r college has found himself or herself wond ering ho w much their classmates have cha nged over the years and whethe r they wo uld be able to relate to friend s they have not seen for years, but with whom they were once close. Is Jason still playing the role of “class clown?” Is Phoebe as conceited now as she was when she was elected homecoming queen? Whatever happened to Jane, the girl who always helped you with your math problems before every exam Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 17 and was more interested in science than being sociable? Did overly dramatic Alex, the star of every theater production in your senior year, follow through on his plans to becom e an actor? Ponde ring these questions can generate a good deal of anticipation before the reunion begins and help add to the fun of what is often a very enjoyable evening. Even though you may not have seen your classmates for a decade or more, the years seem to melt away, and friendships take up where they left off. Kathie and Jim turn out to be as much fun as they ever were, and your high school chemistry teacher remembers your name and reminds everyone that you almost blew up the lab when you decided to “experiment.” On the other hand, there are surprises. Some of your fellow classmates are very different from how you re memb er them, perhaps mo re interesting and self-assured, or m aybe less so, and you wond er, did they change or did you just not see it when they were younger? The issue of whether people change as adults has intrigued psychologists since the field began. It revolves around the concept of personality. A bro ad definition o f personality would be the dynamic organization of a person’s traits, habits, motives, values and attitudes that are based on one’s genetic inheritance and social experiences, and that determine an individual’s characteristic adaptation to his or her environment. A mouthful to say the least, but necessary if one is to capture the characteristics that make each person unique in his/her personality. What is key in the definition is that peo ple differ in the ways that they respond to and p erceive their enviro nments, and that these differences are not ra ndom, but form a core of consistency that we attribute to their persona lities. W e rely on consistent personality differences in our friends and acquaintanc es. In fact, these differences are often why one person beco mes a friend and another remains an ac quaintance. Generally, our friends are tho se who m we believe we can co unt on to be honest, loyal, and supportive. Honesty, loyalty and supportiveness are traits and they are used b y psychologists to describe the ways people differ in their persona lities. Peo ple possessing differe nt traits or d ispositional wa ys of responding, allow us to predict what their reactio ns will be in particular settings and how we might respond to them. For example, if Ted is described as kind, easygoing, sociable, and spontaneo us, we m ight exp ect our interactions with T ed to be pleasant and interesting. The interest in personality from the perspective of adult development is whether the consistency and stability that we observe over the short term are also present over the long term. Our belief in the long term stability of personality traits is so strong that we choose o ur pro spective life mates with the expe ctation that our beloved will continue to d emo nstrate m any of the traits we currently find so attractive in them. Does the research on the stability of personality traits support our assumption? Sigmund Freud would say yes. He is perhaps the best-known proponent of the idea that personality is stable thro ughout life. Freud believed that very little changed after the foundation of the personality was established in childhood, and what might be mistaken for change was simply the outward manifestation of inner personality structures that have remained stable. Not everyone would agree. Stage theorists, such as Daniel Lev inson, q uestioned Freud’s assertion of life-long stability in person ality arguing that the influences of age-graded life events have profound and significant effects on people’s personalities as they age. The question of change in personality is rightly reserved for mid dle age. By this time ad ults are d efinitely recognized as having deve loped “ma ture” p erson alities and they can be expected to have experienced a variety of events thought to have an effect on personality. Which answer is correct? Research of the last 25 years in personality develo pme nt is beginning to provide a clearer answe r. The D ispositional Traits Approach to Persona lity Investigators who first used traits to describe personality found there were so many adjectives in natural languages to describe how people differ that it would be quite unwieldy to use all of them as measures of personality. An exhaustive list of adjectives is not necessary to describe a person accurately because many traits are related. Trait theorists have discovered that there are natural clusters of traits that form the organization of a person ality, and they have attemp ted to identify the numb er of trait clusters necessary to accurately and reliably describe how people’s personalities differ. A statistical method often used to determine what traits are correlated w ith each other is factor analy sis. Traits that cluster together because of their strong correlations with one another, are called factors. In recent years, there has been an emerging consensus that five factors are all that are needed to accurately describe the persona lity (Digman, 199 0). Peo ple in Ame rican culture consistently and reliably use the fundamental dimensions exp ressed in these five factors to de scribe themse lves and others. Furthermore, rece nt evidence across a wide variety of cultures suggests the persona lity strait structure to be a human universal (McCrae & Costa, 1997). The five factors, or “the Big Fiv e,” are: Neuro ticism (N), Extraversion (E), Openness (O), Agreeableness (A), and Conscientiousness (C). Oliver John (1990) has suggested an easy way to reme mbe r them is to reorganize the list so that the first letters sp ell "O CE AN ." Ea ch facto r in the “B ig Five” defines a bro ad doma in of related traits that make up the basic p erson ality dispo sitions peop le show through thinking, feeling and behaving in their environments. Despite the considerable success of the “Big Five” in its ability to adequately describe personality differences, there has not been a good theo retical ex plana tion as to what psychological or bio logical forces gave rise to these specific five facto rs in personality, or why there are just five factors and not more (Block, 1995). Regardless, the use of the “Big Five” inventory has added tremendo usly to ou r knowledge of p erson ality deve lopm ent. Robert M cCrae and Paul Co sta (Co sta & M cCrae, 19 85; 1 992 ) have deve loped a person ality invento ry that measures the “B ig Five” by asking people to respond to items either in the first person for self reports (e.g., “I am very well organized”), or in the third person when ratings are made of another individual (e.g., “he is very well organized”). Respondents express their agreement with the item on a five-point scale (strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, strongly agree). Table 6.2 lists the five factors and the facets of personality that compose each factor. You can get some idea of how you would score on these five factors by examining whether you would b e similar to high scorers. Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 18 There app ear to be consistent Table 6.2. The “Big Five” model of personality traits of NEO-PI-R gend er differe nces o n som e of the m ain (Source: A dapted from Costa & M cCrae, 19 92). factors that compose the Big Five factors of personality, both within American culture Neu roticism–Represents the proneness of the individual to experience unpleasant and and in other cultures. Costa, Terracciano, & disturbing emotions and to have corresponding disturbances in thoughts and actions McCrae (2001 ) analyzed inventory data High Sc orers: Anxiety, Angry Hostility, Depression, Self-conscious, Impulsive, results from 26 cultures and found that men Vulnerab ility and women tend to judge themselves as having traits in gene ral agre ement with Extraversion–Concerns difference s in preference for so cial interaction and lively activity prevailing gender role stereotypes. Wo men High Sc orers: W armth, Gregariousness, Assertiveness, Activity, Excitement seeking, rated themselves higher in Neuroticism, and Positive Emotions Agreeableness, but differed by facet on the Op enness–A receptiveness to new ideas approaches and experiences factors of Extraversion and O penness to High Sc orers: Fantasy, Aesthetics, Feelings, Actions, Ideas, Values Exp erience. On E wo men were higher in warmth, gregariousness and positive Agreeab leness–T he selfless c oncern for others and in trusting and generous sentime nts emo tions, bu t men were higher in High Sco rers: Trust, Straightforwardness, Altruism, Compliance, Mod esty, Tender- assertive ness and exc itement seeking. Mindedne ss Women were higher on the facets of openness to aesthetics, feelings, and action Conscientiou sness–Represents a tendency toward organization and achievement on O , but me n were higher in being open to High Sco rers: Competence, Order, Dutifulness, Achievement Striving, Self-Discipline, ideas. There were few differences on the C Deliberation factor. Costa et al. (2001) summarized the gender differences as: “Wo men tend to be higher in negative affect, submissiveness, and nurturance, and more concerned with feelings than with ideas (p. 32 8).” Stability in the Perso nality of In dividua ls Determining whether adults’ personalities change seems simple enough; measure people’s personalities at different ages and compare their responses to see if they have changed. However, there are really two questions about stability in personalities that need answers, the first is whether there is a change with age in the way an individual describes his or her personality. For example, is the “happy, excitement-seeking, ambitious” 30-year-old described in much the same way when he or she is 45? This is the question of whether an individual is likely to change in personality over time. The second question concerns whether personality traits change with age. For example, as people grow older, do they become less open to change, and while becoming more conservative? Viewing older persons as less open and more conservative is a common perception among many people young and old alike, but, is it true? Robert McCrae and Paul Costa Jr. gathered considerable data on personality changes with age that lead them to conclude that after early adulthood personality is highly stable. In their extensive writings on the topic, they are fond of quoting W illiam James, who app ears to have b een remarkably prescien t in describing their work on the stability of perso nality traits that would com e 80 years later. James wro te: Already at the age of twenty-five you see the professional mannerism settling down on the young commercial traveler, on the young doctor, on the young minister, on the young counselor-at-law. You see the little lines of cleavage running through the character, the tricks of thought, the prejudices, the ways of the “shop,” in a word, from which the man can by-and-by no more escape than his coat sleeve can suddenly fall into a new set of folds. On the whole it is best that he should not escape. It is well for the world that in most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again (James, 1890/1997 , p. 12). The method McCrae and Costa used to measure stab ility was to co mpa re subjects’ test an d retest respo nses on personality inventories. Their summary of the evidence containing data from their work in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging as well as the work of other researchers, clearly showed that when subjects are tested over time intervals that ranged from 6 to 30 years in length, the test-retest correlations of their responses are quite high, ranging from .60 to .80 (Costa & Mc Crae, 1994a). T hese correlations are particularly strong given the reliability of the tests ranged from .70 to .90. It could be argued that if the tests had less measurement error, the stability coefficients for personality would be even higher! Stability did not differ by trait factors, but characterized all of the “Big Five” dimensions of persona lity. Costa and M cCrae (1994 a) estimate three fifths of the variance in persona lity traits is stable over the life spa n, a surp rising de gree o f stability for the measurem ent of an y psychological trait. T he generalization of stable persona lities applied to virtually everyone. In their word s: “Men and wom en, hea lthy and sick people, blacks and whites all show the same pattern...even tho se who claim to have had m ajor chang es show little objective evidence o f change on repeated administrations o f perso nality questionnaires. Imp ortant excep tions to this generalization includ e peo ple suffering from dem entia and certain categories of psychiatric patients who respond to therapy, but no moderators of stability among healthy adults have yet been identified” (McC rae and Costa, 1994, p. 173 ). The evidence that individuals show stable personalities is very strong, but the explanation for why it exists has generated Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 19 considerable debate. It could be argued that these strong correlations do not reflect stability in people’s perso nality so m uch as it reflects fixed ideas of themselves, which influence them to ignore any changes that might actually have occurred. For example, persons who saw themselves as athletic when they were young may continue to harbor that belief, even though years of inactivity and inattention to die t and exercise make it unlikely that they could com pete effectively in the game s of their yo uth. Altho ugh the trait “athletic” is no longer accurate, they continue to maintain the image. McCrae and Costa (1994) respond to this criticism by pointing out that some studies have used spouses and peers to rate an individual’s personality, and these studies also show equivalent levels of stability in their ratings of the subject's personality. It is unlikely that they are also maintaining fixed images of the person in his or her youth. The finding that personality is stable may be greeted by you with some consternation. It gives the impression of being stuck in a recurrent loop of sameness with little variation throughout adulthood. But M cCrae and Co sta suggest it is a mixed blessing. If you are a pe rson who is high on N euroticism, and tend to be angry, anxious, hostile and depressed, the thought that nothing much will change over your personality is not very conso ling. Ho wever, if you are high on Extraversion, you p robably feel quite go od in anticipating that your tendencies to be warm, gregarious, assertive, and given to positive emotions will last your whole lifetime and bring you much jo y. People Who T hink They Have Ch anged Not everyone agrees that their personalities have remained stable, and when they are asked on questionnaires if they have changed over the years they say they have. A re they fooling themselves? T hey ma y be. T he results from studies by Diana W ood ruff and James Birren (1972; Woodruff, 1983) suggest it is a distinct possibility. These investigators compared the responses of graduates of the University of California who had taken the California Test of Personality in 1944 with their responses to the test when it was re- administered 25 years later in 1969 when they were approximately 44 years old. Despite the considerable passage of time, the differences on the two administrations of the test were small. In an innovative approach to the question of change, Woo druff and Birren had also asked their subjects in 1 969 to comple te the inve ntory in the same way they thought they had in 194 4. In co ntrast to the earlier comparison, the differences between how they answered the personality inventory in 1969 and how they thought they answered it in 1944 were large. These adults saw themselves as very different when they were younger from the persons they saw themselves to be in their current lives. Co sta and McCrae (1988 ) have used a similar p rocedure to examine w hether a person’s expectations of change are related to how much change they actually show in their personalities. They asked a group of subjects who were studied longitudinally to consider their “whole personality” in answering the question how much they believed they had changed in the 6-year interval from the last time the personality test was administered. Fifty-one percent reported they had stayed “pretty much the same,” a little more than a third (35 percent) said they had changed “a little” and 14 percent believed they had “changed a good deal” in their personalities. Although people in the three groups differed in terms of how much they thought they had changed, they did not differ in how m uch their perso nality test sco res co rrelated with each other over that period. The med ian correlations were quite strong and essentially the same for all three groups, ranging from a low of .79 to a high of .82. These results argue persuasively that adults in these cases were responding to stereotypes inherent in their understanding of aging that affected their memory of the past and led them to expect that they had ch anged. Stability of Personality Traits From Childhood One of the q uestions that has fascinated psyc hologists is “W hat is the origin of our adult perso nalities?” Are the persona lity traits we show as children the same that we demonstrate as adults? Although measures of temperament are too broadly gauged to be used to define personality traits, investigators have found temperament at age 3 correlates weakly to moderately with later self report measures of personality (Caspi & Silva, 1995; Caspi 2000). Studies that have sought to answer this question directly have used other method s than self-report person ality inventories in the belief that they were thought to be too cognitively advanced for children to use or that their resp onses would be unreliab le or invalid. Instead, investigators used ratings of observers who knew the c hildren well to determine trait differences and their stability over time. One of the premier investigations in this vein came from the longitudinal research of the Oakland Growth Study and Guidance Study that examined the development of children from infancy onward (Haan, Millsap, & Hartka, 1986). Instead of a self report personality inventory, the California studies compared the ratings of clinicians who judged each child’s personality traits at various times in their lives after reading the information collected on the individual for a given age interval. They did this by using a Q-Sort method in which the individual’s traits are ranked from those which are most like him or her to least. To determine whether traits were stable, the investigators compared the rankings of personality traits made at different times. Rankings that were correlated indicated stability of personality traits. The results from the California studies largely support McCrae and Costa's conclusions about the stability of person ality traits during adulthoo d (B lock, 1 971 ). Ho wever, the Ca lifornia studies are unique in possessing data on personality from early childhood into middle age, an interval of more than 50 years! Norma Haan and her asso ciates (H aan, M illsap, & Hartka, 19 86) adopted a correlation of .50 or larger as a criterion for stabile personality traits. Ta ble 6.3 shows the p ercen tage of correlations tha t reached that point for each of seven age tra nsitions. The results o f this study sho w an interesting p attern. T he age intervals sh owing the grea test stability are in childhood to early adolesce nce, and ag ain in the adult period s (see Table 6.3). H owever, there is an exception to stability across age group s in the lapse found during the transitions from late adolescence to early adulthood. In this interval, only 22 percent of the traits reached the criterion of stability. Interestingly, no traits matched this criterion from childhood to middle age. Haan and her colleagues offer as an explanation “that children generally live comp aratively protected and routine lives, but when people enter the adult world, they expose Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 20 themselves to the binding, consequential claims of career, marriage, and parenthood. As a result, they must accommodate" (Haan, Millsap, & Hartka, 19 86, p . 229 ). These data are very interesting. However, the use of a Q-Sort compares the relative rankings of traits to each Table 6.3. Percentage of trait correlations greater or equal to .50 other for the same individual, so it does not provide a between age intervals (Source: Haan, Millsap, & Hartka, 1986). measure of a trait’s mean levels. It tells us whether the Age Interval Correlations >= .50 constellation of personality traits for the individual has changed, but it does not give us information as to how Early Childhood to Late childhood 94% much individual traits have changed. McCrae, Costa, Terracciano, Parker, Mills, Fruyt and Mervielde (2002) Late Childhood to Early Adolescence 83% examined whether adult personality inventories could be Early adolescence to Late Adolescence 78% used effectively with a sample of pre-adolescents aged 10 to 13 , who were followed longitud inally for four years. Late adolescence to Early Adulthood 22% The test-retest correlations were significant across all five factors ranging from a low of .30 to a high of .63, but Early Adulthood to Middle Adulthood 56% considerably smaller than those correlations found for Middle Adulthood to Late Adulthood 56% older adults. This suggests a great d eal of trait instability during the early teen yea rs. Ho wever, although trait Life Span: Early childhood to Late Adulthood 0% stability becomes stronger in early adulthood, studies using personality inventories found that approximately half of the variance in individual personality differences is not stable fro m co llege to the mid-40s (S iegler, Zonderma n, Ba refoo t, Williams, Costa, & McCrae, 19 90) but this improves with age. Roberts and D el Ve cchio (2000) used the technique of meta-analysis to determine the cou rse test-retest consistency of traits over age. The data from 152 longitudinal studies showed that mean population test-retest correlation coefficients increased from .31 in childhood to .54 during the college years, to .64 at age 30, reaching a plateau around .74 between ages 50 and 70. Males and females did not differ in the stability of their perso nalities. T hese re sults sugge st age 30 was not quite the watershe d in the stability of persona lity traits as McC rae and Costa have suggested (1994a). Although most investigators would agree that personality becomes more stable by age 30, age 50 is probably a better estimate of when it plateaus, and, given the size of the correlation in the eldest participants is far from perfect, it appears that perso nality con tinues to chang e even in people of advanced ag e. Age D ifferences in Personality Traits The seco nd question, Does a person ’s perso nality change in p redictable ways with age?, presents some interesting findings. McC rae and his associates (McC rae, Costa, Terracciano, Parker, Mills, Fruyt and Mervielde, 2002) found few overall changes in the Big F ive in their study of p re-adolescents, aged 10 to 13 , who were followed into their late teens. T hree o f the Big Five p erson ality factors were stable over this age interval, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness, for both boys and girls. Girls showed an increase in N euroticism ind icative o f what becomes a trend fo r wom en in later adulthood , and b oth boys and girls increased in Openness to experience. Cro ss-sectional studies examining age difference s in the interv al from college to middle adulthood show some shifting in personality patterns. Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Openness show a decline with age in this interval, and Agreeableness and Conscientious sho w an increase (M cCrae, Costa, de Lima, Simoes, O stendorf, Angleitner, M arusic, B ratko, Cap rara, B arbaranelli, Chae, & Piedmont, 1999). The pattern of decreasing emotional reactivity, and becoming better socialized and less open to new experiences makes intuitive sense since it occurs during the passage into middle adulthood. Interestingly, McCrae et al., (1999) do not attribute this trend to changing demands and responsibilities of the adult environment as Haan et al. (1986) had done, but to universal maturational trends based in biology. They base their conclusion on the cross-cultural similarity that exists in the Big Five Factor structure s in both W estern and no n-W estern cultures, as well as on the similarity in age changes across these cultures. The results of the Dunedin longitudinal study, agree with the cross-sectional findings. In this study completed in New Zealand, participants born in 1972 to 19 73 were followed from age 3 on. Assessments of personality showed that from age 18 to age 26 there was a move toward greater maturity as reflected in their becoming more controlled, more socially confident and less angry and alienated (Roberts, Caspi, & Moffitt, 2001). The hypothesis that the age interval is associated with a movement toward more mature behavior was the finding that those participants who had shown a greater movement toward maturity were less likely to show perso nality change an d were mo re likely to sh ow greater trait consistency. Evidence of change extending into middle age was found in a large internet derived study of adults aged 21 to 60 (Srivastava, John, Gosling & Potter, 2003). The results showed that changes in conscientiousness for men and women slowed in the interval ages 31 to 6 0 but continued to show significant changes. On the o ther hand, Agreeableness showed the opposite pattern. Agreeableness increased a greater amount after age 30 then it did before, with women showing greater increases than men. The authors believe the changes reflect the importance of rearing children during these times, which is consistent in greater changes in women who are often the primary caregivers. Neuroticism showed similar significant declines for women in the age interval 21 to 30 and 31 to 60, whereas men remained constant. As a result, by late adulthood, the gender difference of greater neuroticism in women had disappeared. The re Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 21 were also cha nges in Op enness and Extraversion, but these were of much smaller ma gnitude than the other three factors. Explanations for Stability and Change Personality as a Function of Biology Robert McRae and Paul Costa (McCrae et al., 2000) are ardent proponents of the view that personality is a function of biology. They argue that “Studies of heritability, limited parental influences, structural invariance across cultures, and temporal stability, all po int to the no tion that p erson ality traits are m ore expressions o f human biology than pro ducts of life experience” (p. 177 ). McRae and Costa view the evident changes in personality that occur with age as a process intrinsic to biological maturation. “Just as children learn to talk, count, and reason in a fixed order and time course, so too m ay adults beco me agree able and less extraverted as a natural consequence of aging” (p. 182). Many peo ple believe their personalities have changed because the activities of their life often change radically. Having childre n, getting a job, retirement, the list goes on and o n. Do not these life even ts cause chang es in persona lity? M cCrae and Costa (1994) argue they do not. In fact, they have recently asserted “that persona lity traits are endogenous disp ositions, influence d not at all by the environment” (McCrae et al., 2000). However, they do recognize that the environment plays an important role in determining the concrete forms in which a personality trait will be expressed. T hey put forward the concept of “style of being” to explain the ir position. The “changes” people perceive in their personalities are not real, but merely variants of stable personality traits. “ ...Often the sam e traits can be seen in new guises: intellectual curiosity m erely shifts from one field to another, avid gardening re place s avid tennis, one abusive relationship is followed by another. Many of these changes are best regarded as variations on the ‘uniform tune’ played by individuals’ enduring disp ositions” (M cCrae & Costa, 1994, p 173 ). Evidence related to Costa and M cCrae’s “style of being” comes from the work of Avshaom Caspi and D aryl Bem (1990 ) who investigated whether seemingly different behaviors were based on an underlying genetic predisposition. For example, Caspi and Bem found that highly dependent behavior of adult men when they were children was related to their being characterized as calm, warm, sympathetic, and happily m arried as adults. They reasoned that the trait of dependency realized in re assurance seeking b ehavior in these men as children was often met with nurturance, which helped them establish positive and beneficial relationships with others as they grew older. It app ears, then, that we are see ing interactional continuity in these men’s lives, b ut the phenotypic interactional style of their childhood is not simply carried forward through the life course. Rather, these men seem to have transformed their childhood dep endency into a mature, nurturant style in adulthood that serves them particularly well in the intimate interpersonal world of home and family (Caspi, Bem, & Elder, 1989, p. 397 ). Caspi and Rob erts (2001) call the continuity that underlies diverse phenotypic behaviors “heterotypic” continuity and are likely to result from the large scale change s that occur from childhood to maturity. But ho w does one kno w which set of diverse behaviors, is heterotypic? Caspi and Robe rts argue that the investigator must have a theory that specifies the basis for why humans should be considered equivalent. In contrast to M cCrae and Costa, C aspi an d Robe rts believe the environment plays a greater role in producing both stability and change in personality traits. Stable environments provide the basis for stable personality traits, and unstab le enviro nments lead to change. H owever, the resulting p ersonality constellations in both cases are a part of a d ynamic interchange betwe en gen etic pre dispo sitions and the environment. The evidence from kinship and twin studies is that personality traits are inherited to a substantial degree, and that genetics account for approximately 40 percent of the variation in personality traits observed between individuals (Plomin, 1994; Plomin and Casp i, 200 1). G enes are likely to have their effects thro ugh inherited pred ispositions that cause us to resp ond in a similar mann er in varied situations. If I am an extravert, it is likely that I will ap proach p eop le who are near me when I am at a party, in church or at a PT A mee ting. These genetic predispo sitions encourage peop le to “create” their own environments, influence their choice of care ers, activities, friends and life-long mates. If they make choices in line with their genetic predispositions, it is likely that stability will be reinforced. In addition, our environment also plays an important role in maintaining behavioral continuity. As we grow older and settle into careers, marry and begin to raise families, we are likely to be faced with an environment that becomes familiar and responds to us in ways that are expected. We begin to develop routines and schedules that bring a fair amount of organization, and we become comfortable in these regularities. We pretty much know what we will be doing a week from now, and, although the unexpected can happen to change our lives, it would no t be a good bet. Fo r most of us, the interacting influence s of our genetics and our environments create little pressure for us to adopt new ad aptive ways of interacting. W e might ask, what would happ en if we were faced with an environment that dem anded ne w ways o f respo nding to it; would we change? U nfortunately, there have b een few studies that can give us as an answer. T he H aan et al. (1986) study give s us a hint in that the period of adulthood that showed the least stability in personality was associated with what is assumed to be a period of the greatest change in the environment. During late adolescence and early adulthood, most young adults begin careers, choose spouses and be gin families, all of which exert new environmental dem ands that may encourage new ways of responding. A test for these effects would be to compare people whose environments are more demanding than others, and observe if they show evidence of greater change. This was the reasoning behind a very interesting study of married partners undertaken by Avshalom Caspi and Ellen Herbener (19 90), which asked what would happen to persons who married spouses who had similar personalities to their own, versus couples who married someone w hose personality was quite different. Would the couples who differed most in personality show the Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 22 greatest changes in personality? To test their hypothesis, Caspi and Herbener used archival data from the Oakland and Berkeley longitudinal studies that contained measures of couples’ personalities from two separate occasions. The first was in 1970 when the couples ranged in age from approximately 40 to 50 years, and the second was eleven years later in 1981. As expected, Casp i and Herbener found that stability in personality traits was greater for couples whose personalities were more similar to each other than those whose personalities differed (Figure 6.2). Unfo rtunately, the data did no t allow them to determine how this happens. They conjecture that couples with similar personalities may have similar interaction patterns, prefer similar activities as part of their marital routine, or are more satisfied in their marriages, making spouses less demanding of change in their partners. It could also be that coup les who are dissimilar m ay have to learn to com prom ise and to respond in new ways to please or placate their spouses. These ways of responding are not in accordance with their genetic predispositions so they show more change. The results of this study are surprising in that all of the subjects were 40 years old or older, and we might expect that by that time couples had settled into routinized ways of interacting, but apparently not. It does give hope to many a spouse who would still like to see changes in their mate’s behaviors after many years of marriage. Maybe nagging does help. Figure 6.2. Stability of individual personality (1970-1981) as a function of couple (dyadic) similarity in 1970: Berkely Guidance Study. Source Caspi and Herbener, 1990. The C ase for Cha nge in Persona lity Although the trait app roach has adde d much to o ur kno wledge of person ality, there are those who voice conc ern over its limitations. Critics have argued that the use of self-report inventories based on words available in the average person’s lexicon has limited the description of people’s personalities to broad, superficial categories that have limited value in explaining or predicting peop le’s behavior in specific settings (McAd ams, 1992). T he trait approa ch is depicted as the “psychology of the stranger” because the resulting descriptions are those we are like ly to mak e when we encounter a perso n for the first time and know very little about him or her. As we com e to know a perso n better, we co ntextualize our attributio ns about a p erson ’s behavior by considering how specific situations affect them differently, and we explain their behavior more in terms of their goals, strategies, and schemas which reflects our greater understanding of that person. The importance of context, as expressed by McAdams, contrasts sharply with the views of McCrae and Costa, who see personality as a relatively unchanging structure in the midst of a changing environment. For them, perso nality may be affec ted by the context in which it functions, but its basic organiza tion rem ains unc hanged. There are other investigators who also disagree with this conception of an unchanging personality. Cantor (1990) asserts that the study of traits has emphasized what she calls the “having” side of personality, “what” traits people possess, to the detriment of the “doing” dimension of personality, which is concerned with how people express their personality in interactions with others. Ravenna Helson and Abigail Stewart (1994) argue that the trait approach is biased against showing changes in personality because of the way the traits are chosen for measuring personality. Traits that are unlikely to show change over time are preferred as measures of personality, because the theoretical construct for personality implies that a trait is a stable, unchanging entity. This leads to traits that show change being ignored because they are presumed to be poor m easures of the personality construct. These investigators believe more empha sis should be placed on the adaptive features of personality and the impact of experience on them. Helson and Stewart maintain that a more comprehensive model of personality is needed: One hears it said that whether personality change s dep ends on the definition of persona lity. However, not all definitions of personality are equally adequate. Definitions that exclude m otives, values, styles, scripts, task orientations, self-concepts, and coping mechanisms do not cover what personality psychologists study. In our view they are reductionistic as well as biased against the dem onstration of p erson ality change (H elson & Stewart, 1 994 , p 217). W e now turn to this second view in which people’s personalities are sensitive to the social and historical contexts in which they function. The Effect of Context on Personality Development Although E rik Erikson (1 975 ) emp hasized the ro le history p lays in the develo pme nt of the ind ividual, researc h on the effects of history on personality development has been limited (Caspi, 1987; Caspi & B em, 1990). An app roach taken by some investigators is to examine w hether large scale soc ial changes influenced the individuals who experienced them d uring formative periods in their lives. In the earlier section on the empty nest, we have already seen that historical events had an impact on whether women saw that Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 23 event as positive or negative. Helson and Stewart (1994) point to the large scale changes in the society during W orld W ar II and the econom ic dep ression of the 1930 s as example s of how changes in the social milieu encouraged new adap tations in the ways adults managed the tasks of career, marriage, and raising families. You may remember from Chapter One that Glen Elder found that children experienced the Great Depression differently depending on age, and that it led to long lasting, significant differences in their adult lives (Elder, 19 79; 1 986 ; Elder & H allinan, 1978 ). The effect of the women’s movement on women’s personality development has been recently assessed by Gail Agronick and Lauren Duncan (1998). These researchers compared the responses of 86 women to personality inventories at age 21, when they had graduated from M ills College between 1958 and 1961, with their later responses to personality inventories at age 43. The women were questioned extensively in middle age on w ork, relationships, attitudes and feelings. W ome n who at age 4 3 rep orted that the wo men’s mov ement had been perso nally imp ortant to them chose very d ifferent life styles than wom en who did not. T hey were mo re likely to have followed a career path outside the home as comp ared to women who said they were unaffected by the women’s movement, who were more likely to adopt the life style of homemakers. Agronick and Duncan suggest the changes may have been mediated by personality characteristics the two groups of women possessed in college. Those women who believed the women’s movement was important in their lives rated themselves as ambitious, experiencing some dissatisfaction with their lives, and open to new experiences when they were in college. As they grew older, from their late 20s on, they showed increases in social poise, assurance, confidence, and self esteem, characteristics that are often associated with what has been called a sense of empowerment by feminists. The personality characteristics evident in these young women in college appear to have been influential in their being receptive to the attitudes, behaviors and values that are asso ciated with the wo men’s movement. The autho rs note that other explanations are p ossible. It could be that women who were adaptable, ambitious, and dissatisfied at age 21 were likely to change in ways found in their study at age 43, without their acceptance of the women’s movement. Further research is needed to clarify if this is the case. Nevertheless, the Agro nick and D uncan study and others discussed in this section, dem onstrate that history can have important effects o n personality development that are mediated by the socialization experiences of each generation, which impact personality development in unique ways. The Impo rtance of M otives in Personality A final criticism of the trait app roach to pe rsona lity develo pme nt is that it has larg ely ignored a perso n’s motivation in determining why peop le act as they do. Although traits may determine the manner in which our beh avior is expressed , they are less influential in determining the specific ways we choose to behave. Our mo tivations determine the activities we find interesting, enjoyable or important. Thus, understanding people’s motives gives us a better understanding of their behavior than knowledge of their traits alone. Furthermore, the study of the interaction of motives and traits with age promises to provide us with a better understanding of adult development. David Winter and his colleagues (W inter, John, Stewart, Klohnen, & Duncan, 1998) investigated how perso nality, as de termined by standa rd self-report questio nnaires, corre lated with motives that were measured by the T hematic Apperception Test. The study focused on the trait of extraversion-introversion and its relation to the motives of affiliation in women college graduates who were followed longitudinally from their early 20s to their middle 40s. These researchers reasoned that persons who score high or low on the trait of extrave rsion would chann el their behavior along different lines d epending on the strength o f their motives for affiliation. They hypothesized that extraverts who tend to be interactive and expressive would find channeling of affiliation in their lives easy, but that introverts, who find affiliative activities more threatening and over arousing would have greater difficulty in accom mod ating to affiliative activities. The results of Winter and associates’ study showed that extraverted women who were rated high in the motive for affiliation sought out op portunities outside the ho me for social interactions and relationships m ore so than the introv erted women who were also high in motives to affiliate but who found the opportunities mo re threa tening. In addition, bo th groups differed in the ir success of their intimate relationships. Extraverts had stable relationships, but introverts high in affiliation were more likely to divorce or experience troubled marriages. The authors explain that extraverted women may be more adept and comfortable with close intimate relationships than introverted women, who were more conflicted with them. As predicted, the differences between extaverted and introverted women were only evident for women who were also strongly motivated by affiliation. W omen who were low in affiliation were more similar on measures of interactions outside the home and in their intimate relationships regardless of whether they were introverted or extave rted. C learly, mo tivation was a key factor in determining how these gro ups with different perso nality traits resp onded over time . The W inter et al. (1998) study argues persuasively that traits and motives in personality play different roles in regulating developmental processes, and that both must be con sidered in de scribing how perso nality determines life outco mes. It he lps to explain why pe ople who a re so sim ilar in traits lead very different lives. A lthough the evidenc e of the p revious sectio n sugge sts that traits rema in stable from approximately age 30 o nward , we kno w much less about the stability of motive s. It may be that traits are stable in adults but that motivations change, resulting in differences in how traits are expressed, which gives rise to the “adult stages” that Levinson and others believe are part of the life cycle. This would acco unt for the negative findings for cha nges in p erson ality traits with stages. McCrae and Costa (1990) originally had expected they would find personality differences in midlife. They reasoned that one of the personality factors of the B ig Five m ost likely to chang e would be Neuroticism because of the increases in anxiety, dep ression , self-consciousness, and vulnerability that would be part of presum ed m idlife crisis. T he results were negative. Mid life adults did no t show higher levels of neuroticism (M cCrae & Costa, 1990). This is not a surprise since few people experience m idlife crises, but whether traits remain stable may be the wrong question to ask. W e perhaps should ask whether motivations change over the Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 24 life span and how they determine o ur behavior. The W inter et al. (1 998 ) study will no do ubt stimulate future research in clarifying this intriguing relationship between motives and traits in adu lt developm ent. THE END OF MIDDLE ADULTHOOD The Recognition That One Is No Longer Young It seems fitting to end this chapter quoting men and women aged 50 to 60 years describing the end of middle age. NBC news anchor To m Brokaw wrote a very interesting column about what he saw as a shift in his own life when he turned 50 (B ox 6.1). In many ways, it is quite similar to how developmentalists have described this period. A second source for descriptions of the end of middle age comes from a study completed by David Karp (1988). He conducted in-depth interviews of 72 men and women professiona ls who testified eloquently to their fee lings about themselves, their ca reers and aging from 50 to 60 years. Karp’s interviews document a distinct perceptual shift from feeling young in early middle age to the growing awareness that one has become, or is becoming, old. Karp contends that the intensity of aging messages increases in the fifties and accelerates one’s personal sense of aging. In earlier d ecad es aging could be recognized intellectually, but in the fifties, it becom es more real, immediate, and person al. Karp divided the messages that a person is aging into four general categories, the first set contains messages emanating from changes in the bo dy. Pe ople in their fifties are no longer ab le to pe rform physically as they once did , and the y are more likely to have chronic problems or diseases that alert them to changes in their bodies. The second source comes in the way of generational reminders, from children, parents, and perhaps grandchildren, that provide multiple mirrors of their aging and of their senior position in the cycle of life. One interviewee put it this way: “Over the last 3 or 4 years I have become more conscious of the divisions between me and the younger set. I look at my daughter. My oldest daughter is 36. Their children, my grandchildren, that tells me that I’m aging” (Karp, 1988, p. 732 ). A third source of messages is contextual, arising from persons’ comparison of ages with those immediately around them. Many of the people who were interviewed spoke of the changes that occurred when they realized they were among the oldest at work or in other settings, or that they were thought of differently by those who were younger, or that they were treated in a manner that was based on their age. The last source of messages of aging were reminders of mortality that came with the deaths of parents and friends. The ir deaths led m any to b ecome m ore aware of how quickly time passes and served to constrain their outlook on their futures. An excerp t from one o f Karp’s subjects expresses m any of these ideas. I think the worst thing abo ut grow ing old in your thinking is that yo u begin to realize you’re running out of time. There isn’t enough time. I don’t hav e time to start ano ther bu siness. I don’t hav e time now. T his thing ab out 60. You realize that life is coming to an end...I even think of it in terms of marriage. I think about meeting another woman. I’d like to have a nice relationship. Then I think, ‘In 7 years I’ll be 60.’ And yet I say that’s silly because I know people have relationship s after that. I know it, but it’s in my mind ...I don’t relate to the idea o f being to o old . I relate more to the idea that there’s not enough time (Karp, 1988, p. 735). You might expect that people in their 50s would be depressed given their greater realization of the increasing frailness that comes with aging, and the specter of their own mortality, but that is not what Karp found. Instead: “The pervasiveness of the four reminders described, however, does not imply that the fifties are experienced negatively. Respondents see the fifties as a time of liberation in their lives, a time during which they are able to view their lives in a broader, more holistic way than earlier” (Karp, 1988, p. 737). Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 25 Box 6. 1. Senior-Circuited by Tom Browkaw A few years ago when a friend turned 50. I took out a full-page ad in a newspaper in the city where he was working. It was merc iless, reminding him he was no w half a century o ld, that two -thirds of his lifetime had passed. A t the time, I was in my late 40’s and yet 50 seemed a distant number, so the fun was entirely at his expense. Ho, ho. Although he seemed to be impressed by my enterp rise, he d id not share the hilarity. Now I understand . I am there. Five oh. In fact, I have b een for many months, and every day I exp ect to awake w ith a sense of adjustment: “Hey, 50 isn’t so bad once you get used to it.” Trouble is, I haven’t. It’s not that I am angry or melancholy. It’s more an irritation. Sort of a chronic low-level virus. For those of you cruising quietly toward this two-score-and-ten marker be forewarned, as I was not, that 50 is mo re than 49 p lus 1. It brings with it some unexpected and unrelenting cond itions. First, the obvious: at 50 you’re no longer young. Oh, an occasional octogenarian will say, “Listen here, young man, when I was your age….” That’s comforting if you spend all of your waking hours with octogenarians, but the more realistic standard is set by other experiences. When was the last time you were the youngest person in an office meeting? Or at a dinner party? How many of your college classmates or old girlfriends are grandp arents? H ave you no ticed how m any captains of industry, governors, ambassadors are not yet 50? At 50, you no longer can play the part of the brash young man, making the daring moves secure in the knowledge that if they don ’t work o ut, there will prob ably be other chances. At this age, mistakes, ho wever daring are not easily excused. Achievem ent is not a cause of praise; it is expected. This passage is not eased by the aging of the icons of your generation. Jack Nicklaus, I gather, was not amused when he became eligible to play on the senior golf circuit. It didn’t make me very happy, either. If the Golden Bear is a senior, so am I. W orse, I find I am no w attracted to golf, a demanding, but let’s face it, sedentary spo rt. At 50, you begin to examine the passbook of your life with a new urgency. Suddenly, all those casual promissory notes of years gone by are overdue. Oh, migod, I still haven’t learned French. Or chess. Or whatever. In my 30s I was always comforted by the knowledge that James Michener didn’t publish his first book until he was 40. Now I realize he’d published four by the time he was 50. Had he lived, John F. Kennedy could have been in the seventh year of his Presidency by the time he was 50. When we are in our 20’s and 30’s, life’s learning curve is steep but exhilarating. In our 40’s we move into a cruising speed, naviga ting curves with the com forting kn owledge that we’ve been through most of them before. So doesn’t it follow tha t in the 50 ’s you can switch to autopilot, guided by stored wisdom and m aturity, snapping off just the right decision or advice on matters large and small? It’s finally time to b e a real grown-up. N ot true. If I still wo re mittens, I’d still lose the m.... A profound change when I crested 49: I had the uneasy feeling I was now looking down a long trail, no longer up. There is the hardening realization of mortality. My father died when he was 69. Nineteen years from my current age. Nineteen years is a long time in jail or a bad marriage, but in life? Our youngest daughter, my baby, was born more than 19 years ago. I am now the age my father was when m y wife and I were m arried. Th is year, an unsettling number o f friends have died or developed terminal illnesses. At the time of my birthday, this was weighing on me some as I contemplated a celebration with friends of roughly the same age. When I shared with our eldest daughter some of my anxieties, she had the rejoinder of the 24-year-old. “Oh, Dad,” she said, “lighten up. Have a good time at your party. After all, this is your generation. You all came into the world at about the same time and you’ll check out at abo ut the sam e time, so enjoy each other now.” It was an odd ly comforting tho ught. If all this has the ring of morbidity, I have sent an errant signal. I am the eternal optimist, always scouting the next adventure. My life is full beyond the wildest hop es of my youth. M arriage, family, friends, health, profession and experiences, whatever the measurem ent, I am richly end owed and appreciative . In fact, life has b een so rewarding I m ay have been lulled into believing the m ost imm utable dimension o f existence -- the aging pro cess -- would be slowed on my behalf. O bviously it has no t. Fifty arrived on schedule and it will depart on schedule. It’s only a guess, but when it leaves I think I shall miss it -- for then I will be 51. SUMM ARY The long interval of middle adulthood (35 -60) begins with adults still in full vigor of young adulthood and ends with the physical and psychological signs of impending old age. So long an age interval can lead to contradictions in generalizing about it. The writings of Carl Jung and Erik Erikson have been influential in research and theorizing about middle age. Both men saw it as a time of adult fruition based on the experiences and decisions made in earlier periods of adulthood, and both men stressed a psychological reorganization at midlife that had the potential to bring the individual adult greater happiness and satisfaction. Stage theorists, such as George Vaillant, Roger Go uld and Daniel Levinson incorporated these ideas in their descriptions and theories of the life cycle. A pervasive theme running thro ugh them is the impo rtance of a mid life review during which ad ults reassess their lives and readjust them in accordance with what they now value at midlife. Those who make needed adjustments are benefitted with increased life satisfaction. The description of delineated age boundaries of stage theories when specific tasks are to be acco mplished, particularly the midlife crisis, has not been well supported , and the theories based large ly on da ta gathered p rimarily from educated white male subjects has limited application for women and minorities. Although, “stages” in development have not been strong ly supported , they have tended to encoura ge much useful research on life transitions. Although there is some evidence that people assess whether their lives match their expectations, there is no strong evidence that they plunge into a midlife crisis, or that the life assessments ma de at o ther times are no t helpful in m aking life m ore satisfying. Chapter 6. Middle Adulthood 26 The transitions that come with aging, such as menopause, changing sexual and physical capabilities, living life as an empty nest couple, adjusting to “boom erang” kids o r becoming a grandparent, show little evidenc e that they are disruptive to one’s se nse of well being. On the contrary, midlife is a benign, positive period in the life cycle during which most middle-aged adults create lifestyles that bring them m uch ha ppiness and satisfaction . Rese arch o n personality further sup ports midd le age as a psychologically stab le period. G enera lly, the trait app roach to perso nality dev elopment has do minated research in this area. The results from these studies find little evidence that p eop le’s perso nalities change after age 30. B oth genetic inhe ritance and environmental stability reinforce consistent behavior in adults. W hether people wo uld sho w mo re change in p erson alities if their environm ents cha nged is not kno wn, but there is evidenc e that this may b e the case. Critics of the trait approach have argued that the methodology is designed to find stability and to ignore important changes that occur over the course of adult development. Other approaches that have examined the effects of history on development or changes in motivation have found that they have important effects on personality development and may eventually lead to a fuller description of how adults change with age. Finally, toward the end of middle adulthood, signs of aging become more prominent and provide an impetus in a greater realization of o ne’s aging and mortality.