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An Examination of Middle Adulthood, Essay Example

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Essay

Middle adulthood is one of the periods of life development as described by Erik Homburger Erikson. The second last of eight stages, middle adulthood falls between the ages of 40 and 65, after young adulthood and before late adulthood. Erikson proposed that we face a different crisis at every stage of life, each of which must be resolved before facing the next. The term “mid-life crisis” comes from the misinterpretation of the original concept. The crisis we face in middle adulthood is centered upon the desire to contribute to the following generation, and can be summed up by the concept of generativety vs. stagnation (which supposedly occurs when generativity is not accomplished).

Middle adulthood is an especially interesting stage of development because it can often come with the added challenge of being in a “sandwich generation”. This term describes the common situation where a middle-aged adult is responsible for dependent children as well as dependent parents. This additional stressor can have negative implications for physical, cognitive, and affective (emotional) states, as well as social functioning.  This situation is not exclusive to middle adulthood, but the majority of people who experience sandwich generation effects are in this age range.

Although most people complain about the process of aging, the natural changes that are expected during middle adulthood can be appraised as being both positive and negative. From a physical perspective, muscle strength and coordination can decline unless regular exercise is employed to counter the effects of aging. Sensory abilities, particularly hearing and sight, commonly worsen during this age range. As a result, corrective measures such as glasses may be necessary. Another physical challenge of middle age is the onset of menopause for women, and other hormonal changes for men. Cognitively we can expect some aspects to improve (reasoning) while others will worsen (working memory). Conversely, our affective and social growth during this period is often positive, as support networks tend to be maximized in comparison to other stages.

There are many questions that could be posed regarding the middle adulthood developmental period, but we will focus on three in total, one from each category of physical changes, cognitive changes, and affective changes. Regarding the physical aspects of middle age, while sensory decline is a known effect, it is worth investigating whether or not people in this age period are aware of this decline. It is possible that, due to the gradual onset of sensory loss with age, people may not be aware of it and therefore would not seek treatment. The impairment of working memory in middle adulthood may be counteracted through training. The idea that working memory can be improved is a relatively new concept as it was previously thought to be finite, so the investigation of the usefulness of working memory training in combating age-related cognitive impairment is warranted. Lastly, the affective changes of middle age may be partially in response to the crisis of generativety vs. stagnation, as proposed by Erikson. If the need to contribute to the upcoming generation were truly important during this age range, then the affective state of a person would be highly influences by the subject’s perception of their success in this area. It would be beneficial to examine the self-assessment of personal generativety as it compares to the affective state of the subject. Evidence from such an investigation would not only provide insight into the affective changes that come with mid-life, but will also provide an evaluation of the perceived worth of generativety in the life of people in this age range.

To answer the question regarding physical changes during middle adulthood, we will need to implement a survey. The design of this survey must be taken into account in order to ensure the minimization of potentially confounding influences. Answers will be modeled so that they will be easily quantifiable, and thus testable using statistics. The examination of working memory training in middle-aged adults will be quantitative and will compare the working memory abilities of people in this age range after receiving training to those who haven’t had training (and ideally those who had training not related to working memory, to minimize confounds). The final task of investigating the affective aspects of the desire for generativety could be carried out in survey form, much like the physical question. The responses of these surveys may be quantitative throughout, or initially qualitative but transformed (or quantized) in the case of open-ended questions.

Of course, any experimental testing should use a wide subject pool and random sampling measures if it is to be externally valid. The subjects would be drawn from the population of people currently experiencing middle adulthood (age 40-65), and it may be desirable to compare different age groups within this range should enough subjects be available. In a properly controlled environment, answering these questions may bring about useful information for dealing with the challenges associated with middle adulthood.

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