For this assessment, I had to first interview a single individual and then analyse the findings in relation to two developmental psychology theorists. The interviewee is Mrs T, a female in her late-forties. Mrs T is a teacher, married with two children aged 18 and 21. The interview was based on twenty questions (refer to Appendix 1). The objective of the interview is to gain an understanding of the development and challenges faced by a middle-aged adult. The question often asked is whether a person changes in the same basic way time and time again throughout his/her lifespan or change in a qualitative way throughout his/her lifespan (Buhler and Allen, 2006). The questions were developed from research material on the changes in females in their middle adulthood and the changes that affected their life in the area of family and career. Buhler’s basic premise of development is that it has intentionality, involves goal setting, and actualisation, which included steps such as the choosing life goals, working towards them, evaluating the goal achievement and selecting new goals, revisiting neglected ones and revising life plans in order to fulfil one’s full human potential for self-actualisation and self-determination. (Peterson, 2004) . The findings from the interview will be analysed qualitatively, unlike quantitative analysis, there is discourse in qualitative analysis. The questionnaire structure avoids asking the interviewee about feelings. The aim of the interview was to determine how a person changes qualitatively over time from facts and events.
The responses from the interview were analysed in light of the research by Charlotte Buhler and Daniel Levinson on middle age adults. Middle adulthood is the stage of development period between 35-45 years and normally exits between the ages of 55-65. People between the ages of 35-65, experience a great deal of changes in their lifestyle due to “careers, finances, marriage and, leisure activities” (Wrightsman, 2002, p 178). For a number of individuals, midlife, which this age period is commonly known, is normally the time they re-examine their lives, relationships, careers and even the meaning of it all, an awkward situation that has been often referred to as “midlife crisis” (Berger, 2004, p 132). The individual could also start experiencing some facial changes such as wrinkling of the skin, greying of the hair, sagging of the bodies and the yellowing of the teeth. Some even start having difficulties with their “hearing and eyesight focal changes or others such as menopause, cardiovascular disease” could add to what is already a busy and complicated changing time (Chapman, Conroy and Sheehy, 2004, p 204). During this period, most adults will have a steady career and are generally satisfied with their jobs and this commitment continues into the sixties when the individual starts planning for retirement. At times during this period of reassessment, the individual may decide to change career. According to Chapman et al (2004) marriages may either improve or deteriorate, this is mainly because during this period, couples have to make a high number of adjustments to accommodate the new changes in their lives; the marriage is likely to experience difficulties if they do not (Chapman, Conroy and Sheehy, 2004). With a steady income, leisure becomes an integral part of the lives of the individual as it acts as a buffer to the stresses in their lives.
Buhler said, “people develop through their life span and are social beings with capability to set and pursue personal goals as they mature” (Buhler and Allen, 2006, p 76). Mrs T showed this maturity when she described herself as “easy-going, relaxed and confident” compared to decade earlier when she was “stressed, anxious, aggressive, and worrying”. Healthy people continuously face challenges throughout their life, and during such circumstances, they integrate tendencies, which include meeting one’s needs of ego, love, sex and recognition (Buhler and Allen, 2006, p 76). One of the challenges faced by middle-aged adults is making “self-limiting adaptations by fitting in, belonging and remaining secure” in the circumstances surrounding one’s life. In reacting to the challenges, the individual is likely to move towards creative expansion through “self-expansion and creative accomplishments” (O’Connell and Russo, 2005, p. 234). The person also upholds and restores the inner order by being true to one’s conscience and values. Even though these difficulties may be tasking to reconcile, people who meet their lifelong development tend to go beyond self and self-comfort and those who don’t end up being dedicated to chosen values. Buhler also views a human being as “a continuously developing being encourages fruitful explorations and a person is satisfied when he/she lives a life that matches his/her best gifts” (Kazdin, 2000, p 483).
Levinson (2005) however suggests that development goes all the way into adulthood and that the social interaction and the environment in which one is brought up tends to play a significant role in the determining the path, although religion and race also have some significance in this process. Levinson (2005) assert that human development occurs in six stages, starting from early adult transition (17-22 years) in which “people leave adolescence and make preliminary choices in life” and moving on to” making initial choices in love life, occupation, friendship, values and lifestyle” (Levinson, 2005, p 164). From the ages of 28-33, the transition will involve “changes in life structure, a progress in family and career” (Levinson, 2005, p 164). Thereafter comes the “midlife transition”, that is the stage of development that occurs generally around the ages of 40-45, where “meaning in life becomes an important aspect” and the sensitivity to the future including “redeeming the unexpressed talents and aspirations” (Levinson, 2005, p 165). At this midlife stage, the individual also goes through “a lot of soul searching, living constructively in order to achieve the desired fulfilment in life” (Schneider, Bugental and Pierson, 2003, p 197). The individual makes “new choices and commits to the new task” (Levinson, 2005, p 165) between the ages of 45-50. Mrs. T is in this stage and having experienced the changes in her life such as her progress in her career and bringing up children exposed to a lot of information through internet and television as she says that during her youth, “there were only radios and so she was not really affected by them”. She has more free time now and looks towards “travelling and learning to draw and paint” during her retirement. Mrs T expresses a desire to have the society offer both male and female equal opportunities both in the families as well as in the employment sector, which aligns with what Levinson said about midlife people having the desire or aspiration to change the neglected part of their lives. Mrs. T has been involved with her children but at this time of her life, her children have become old enough and are out of home. She therefore feels more relaxed now and is focusing on her life. Mrs. T also says that her family members normally communicate quite well and her family members are open with each other. She also seems quite satisfied with her life and accomplishments and is happy with the steps she has made in life. In fact, she feels that she has succeeded as a teacher and she is very happy that she is able to handle the parents, the learners and even people who are different from her. Sigelman & Rider (2003) highlights this connection between personality and vocation in that those who have stable personalities and behaviour tend to go into a stable employment situation and the opposite applies for those who are not well adjusted and unstable.
During the interview, Mrs. T. said a decade ago she was “stressed, aggressive and always worrying” but now her personality has changed and she is “more relaxed, confident and easy going” and this, she explains, is due to “aging, health issues and being able to know her own self better”. She has also learnt to “tolerate other people’s arrogance and rudeness”. Mrs. T. ability develop confidence over the years and this has greatly helped her in her career, and able to adapt and fit in well with the people supports the Buhler’s theory that humans develop across their life-span. In addition, she feels that both “female and male need to be treated equally by the society” and finds that “employers tend to be biased against the females”. She has managed to “develop confidence while handling the parents and learners” and has her working life a little “less stressful”. She has also become more relaxed about family issues even though she may be concerned. Mrs. T believes that “wives should be allowed to work and provide for their families if they wish to”. She believes that media has influenced how people think and behave. Mrs T has been able to integrate the tendencies that Buhler described about “self- limiting adaptations” by learning to tolerate those different from her, as well as being able to “achieve creative expansion by learning to develop confidence in her work when handling the parents and school children” (Kazdin, 2000, p 483).
Mrs. T life highlights Buhler’s theory of “development as a life-long process” (Massarik and Buhler, 2008, p 276) when she said that she has “developed confidence in her work over the years and also learns to cope with people that are different to her as she gets older”. She developed “self-limiting adaptations” by learning to cope with the new technology and its effects on the children and by tolerating those indifferent to her (Massarik and Buhler, 2008, p 112). Mrs T has “integrated creative expansion in handling challenges by creative expression” (Fried, 2001, p 93); this is evident because she learns that by expressing herself confidently to “her learners and parents they will believe in her”. Mrs T also upholds and restores the inner order by being true to her values and conscience as seen in her support for women who want to work and the need to worry about the influence of the media on the children. She has been able integrate the tendency of satisfying her need for recognition and feels confident that she has been successful as a teacher, and for this reason, she has achieved a recognition from the parents.
Development during adulthood is complicated. Both Buhler and Levinson had said that development occurs in stages and during each stage; there are developmental milestones that an individual achieves. For a number of individuals, midlife is normally the time to re-examine their lives, relationships, careers and even the meaning of it all, this is normally been referred to as midlife crisis. It is important that an individual assess his/her achievements critically before getting into late adulthood that mainly involve assessing ones accomplishment. A feeling of failure is likely to cause despair if an individual feels that what was set as a goal was not achieved. The findings of my interview has shown that an adult in middle age does go through the various stages of developmental milestones of examining the life and achievements, and learn from it to pursue the next stage of their life.
Berger, K. (2004). The developing person through midlife span. New York. Worth publisher.
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How would you describe your personality now?
And how would you describe your personality a decade ago?
What would be the most significant change?
In your mind, what were the triggers for this change?
What about your likes and dislikes in the personalities of other people?
Have these changed over the past decade?
Why do you think your preferences changed?
Do you think your gender has affected your job prospects?
Do you think the employers are biased towards one gender?
To progress in your career, are you expected to have certain traits / behavior?
Would you say you have developed these traits / behavior over time?
How would you describe your relationship with your family?
Do you think being in full-time employment affected your relationship with your family?
Do you agree with this statement “women should stay at home and look after their children and the men were the income earners”?
And your reasons are?
How much did the media (like TV, books, magazines) influence your decision?
Compare the present to the period when you were a youth, are there any differences?
How do you handle these differences with the present generation of youth?
Do you feel that the media has over sensationalized the problems faced by the older generation?