The current demographic, economic, and career paths trends are changing the more traditional conceptualizations of midlife as defined by certain roles or a stage of parenthood or of marriage (David, 1998). Traditionally middle age has involved middle years of parenting and career peaking with the later phase of midlife being a time of relinquishing the employment and parenting of children. However, given economic recess, many middle age individuals are reconsidering and delaying the anticipated retirement age hence the age /cohort boundaries of midlife are not static and are likely to continue to evolve with further demographic, economic, and social/health policy changes (Krauss, 2010). Some studies have shown that this stage is characterized by midlife crisis.
Individuals at this stage may therefore have some of these feelings: search of undefined dream or goal, a deep sense of remorse for goals not accomplished, a fear of humiliation amongst more successful colleagues, desire to achieve a feeling of youthfulness, need to spend more time alone or with certain peers (Huyck, 1993).
The contemporary life-event framework shows the socio-historical context, life events, and the mediating variables of these life events. Life events include marriage, widowhood, new job, accident, and birth of child. The mediating variable includes physical health, intelligence, personality, family supports, and income. Generally, the framework implies that the influence of life event is determined by the event itself, on mediating variables, on the life stage and on socio-historical context.
Adults for example may be able to cope up more effectively with divorce today than in 1950s because divorce have become more commonplace and accepted in today’s society. Whatever the context or mediating variables, however, one individual may perceive a life event as highly successful whereas another individual may perceive the same event as a challenge.
Marriage is currently viewed as non-important event due to the current economic recession and increase in the cost of living. Individual would thus perceive marriage as an obstacle to his or her happiness unlike in the past when marriage was treated with utmost respect and its importance were highly acknowledged. Present Individuals do not have time for parenting instead they are busy working in order to earn for their livelihood. The number of children is now restricted to between two and five per person. Many children are seen as burden to many unlike in the past when children were perceived as source of wealth. Evasion of the stresses that accompany parenting is a common reason for such perceptions.
With mediating variables constant, new job is perceived as a solution to problems. Career is now one of the top priorities to many individuals where as parenting follows. An individual with secured job would be happier than an individual without one. In fact, more time is dedicated to working at the expense of the parenting. This is contrary to what was there in the past. In the past, parenting was given the first priority by many. In fact, people could apply for earlier retirement so that they have enough time for parenting and nurturing of their small kids (Huyck, 1993).
Accident involving a prominent member of the family is seen as a loss of social and psychological benefits associated to that member. In other words, it is the fear of losing the association with the person rather than the fear of losing the person himself that matter.
Birth of the child is perceived differently. Most individuals especially those who are well off perceive children as hindrance to their ‘happiness’ whereas those individual who are relatively poor may view the birth of a child as their future savior. This is evidenced by birth of many children by poor individuals compared to few children by well off individuals. From socio-historical context, birth of child was highly recognized and was highly valued by all classes of people in the past because the cost of living was cheap and there were fewer obligations as far as the upkeep of the child is concerned (David, 1998).
The perception of the above notwithstanding, the mediating variables play a big role in determining the actual perception hence different individuals would have different perception depending on the kind of the mediating variable. Therefore explanation about perception of a given life-stage event should be based on socio-historical context and on mediating variables (Krauss, 2010).
Various dimensions of wellbeing are also impacted differently during midlife. The degree to which these dimensions change during midlife in relation to young adulthood and adult stage shall be explored in this section comprehensively.
Autonomy, a state of thinking and acting independently, would increase at a slower rate during midlife as compared to young adulthood. During young adulthood, an individual have ample time to act independently because he or she may still being provided by the parents, he or she have less responsibilities but during midlife, such individual might be having extra responsibilities and hence no time to meditate and act independently. However, such individuals are likely to have positive relations because the element of autonomy is not there. Environmental mastery also starts increasing at relatively slower rate because there is inadequate time for such individual to relate with their environment unlike during young adulthood when such individuals are still eager to explore and master their environment (Krauss, 2010).
Personal growth and purpose in life for such individuals would start decreasing during this stage because he or she starts believing that his or her productive youthful time is gone and that the remaining time may not contribute a lot to development. An individual at midlife would show an element of self acceptance due to the fact that he or she must be contented with those aspects of life that tend to dominate in young adulthood (Margie, 2004) .
In conclusion, developmental theories describe the processes through which individuals went through since their childhood to adulthood. Several theories not only explain the stages of developments in children but they also give advice on how to handle children at different stages. These theories further explain the behaviors of different people at different stages. Fresh and exclusive concepts should be favored by the immediate surrounding that entails both physically and cognitively motivation and at the same time maintaining familiarity.
David, G. (1998). Adulthood's Ages and Stages. Psychology, 5, 196-197.
Huyck, M., H. (1993). Middle Age. Academic American Encyclopedia, 13, 390-391
Margie, L. (2004). "Development in Midlife," Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 55: 305-331.
Krauss, S. (2010). The Search for Fulfillment: Revolutionary New Research Reveals the Secret to
Long-Term Happiness. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.