Late Adulthood

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Late Adulthood


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Late Adulthood

you will select 2 topics, and write a thought paper on each topic).  You should NOT simply summarize the readings for a topic, but you should critically evaluate the readings based on the Blackboard discussions and your readings of the author’s point of view.  Evaluate the methodology, conclusions, and consistency of the theoretical perspectives and explanations of development, and provide alternatives for where a perspective “falls short.”  Moreover, discuss how the readings might inform clinical practice and research.  You may not write a thought paper for the session when you are discussion leader

Berk, L. E. (2018). Exploring lifespan development (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson. – Chapters 16 and 17 

Bherer, L., Erickson, K. J., & Liu-Ambrose, T. (2013). A review of the effects of physical activity and exercise on cognitive and brain functions in older adults. Journal of Aging Research.doi: 10.1155/2013/657508

Kelly, M. E., et al. (2014). The impact of cognitive training and mental stimulation on cognitive and everyday functioning of healthy older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Ageing Research Reviews, 15, 28–43.
doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2014.02.004

Martinson, M., & Berridge, C. (2015). Successful aging and its discontents: A systematic review of the social gerontology literature. The Gerontologist, 55(1), 58–69. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnu037


CHAPTER 15 Physical and Cognitive Development in Middle Adulthood Osteoporosis affects 10 percent of people age 50 and older, primarily women. Adequate calcium and vitamin D, weight-bearing exercise, resistance training, and bone-strengthening medications can help prevent and treat osteoporosis. anger with heart disease and other health problems. ■ ■ Effective stress management includes both problem-centered and emotion-centered coping, depending on the situation. In middle adulthood, people tend to cope with stress more effectively, often reporting lasting personal benefits. Regular exercise offers physical and psychological advantages, making it worthwhile for sedentary middle-aged people to begin exercising. Developing a sense of self-efficacy and having access to convenient, safe, and attractive exercise environments promote physical activity. Hardiness includes three personal qualities— control, commitment, and challenge—that motivate people to turn life’s stressors into opportunities for resilience. A modest level of lifetime adversity seems to promote hardiness. ■ Executive function declines with age: working memory diminishes, and inhibition and flexible shifting of attention become more challenging. Early cross-sectional research showed a peak in intelligence test performance at age 35 followed by a steep decline, whereas longitudinal evidence revealed modest gains in midlife. Using a sequential design, Schaie found that the crosssectional, steep drop-off largely resulted from cohort effects, as each new generation experienced better health and education. ■ 15.9 Describe changes in crystallized and fluid intelligence in middle adulthood. ■ Crystallized intelligence, which depends on accumulated knowledge and experience, gains steadily through middle adulthood. In contrast, fluid intelligence, which depends more on basic information-processing skills, begins to decline in the twenties. ■ In the Seattle Longitudinal Study, perceptual speed undergoes a steady, continuous decline. But other fluid skills, in addition to crystallized abilities, increase through middle adulthood, confirming that midlife is a time of peak performance on a variety of complex abilities. ■ Gains in certain intellectual skills by baby boomers relative to the previous generation reflect advances in education, technology, environmental stimulation, and health care. Adapting to the Physical Challenges of Midlife (p. 422) ■ As processing speed slows, people perform less well on memory, reasoning, and problem-solving tasks, especially fluid-ability items. But other factors also predict age-related cognitive performances. Middle-aged women are more likely than their male counterparts to be viewed unfavorably, especially by men. Changes in Mental Abilities (p. 425) Expressed hostility, a component of the Type A behavior pattern, predicts heart disease. Anger suppression is also related to health problems; a better alternative is to develop effective ways of handling stress and conflict. 15.6 Discuss the benefits of stress management, exercise, and hardiness in dealing effectively with the physical challenges of midlife. ■ COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT ■ 15.5 Discuss the association of hostility and ■ ■ 15.8 Describe cohort effects on intelligence revealed by Schaie’s Seattle Longitudinal Study. © HERO IMAGES INC./ALAMY STOCK PHOTO ■ 15.7 Explain the double standard of aging. © JIM WEST/THE IMAGE WORKS blood cholesterol, atherosclerosis, heart attack, arrhythmia, and angina pectoris. Quitting smoking, reducing blood cholesterol, exercising, and reducing stress can decrease risk and aid in treatment. Information Processing (p. 427) 15.10 How does information processing change in midlife? ■ Speed of cognitive processing slows with age. According to one view, deteriorating neuronal connections, due to myelin breakdown, reduce reaction time. Another approach suggests that older adults experience greater loss of information as it moves through the cognitive system, resulting in slower processing. Compared with younger individuals, older adults less often use memory strategies, resulting in decreased recall of studied information. But training, improved design of tasks, and metacognitive knowledge enable older adults to compensate for age-related decrements. 15.11 Discuss the development of practical problem solving, expertise, and creativity in middle adulthood. ■ Middle-aged adults display continued growth in practical problem solving, largely due to gains in expertise. Creativity becomes more deliberately thoughtful and often shifts from generating unusual products to integrating ideas, and from concern with self-expression to more altruistic goals. Adult Learners: Becoming a Student in Midlife (p. 431) 15.12 Discuss the challenges that adults face in returning to college, ways to support returning students, and benefits of earning a degree in midlife. ■ Adults returning to college and graduate school are more often women. Returning students must cope with a lack of recent practice at academic work; negative aging, gender, and ethnic stereotypes; and demands of multiple roles. ■ Social support from family and friends and institutional services can help returning students succeed. Further education results in enhanced competencies, new relationships, intergenerational contact, and reshaped life paths. Important Terms and Concepts climacteric (p. 415) crystallized intelligence (p. 426) fluid intelligence (p. 426) glaucoma (p. 414) hardiness (p. 424) hormone therapy (p. 417) menopause (p. 415) osteoporosis (p. 421) 433 practical problem solving (p. 430) presbycusis (p. 414) presbyopia (p. 414) Type A behavior pattern (p. 421) chapter 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood Midlife is a time of increased generativity—giving to and guiding younger generations. At a nonprofit bike store in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood, a volunteer derives a deep sense of satisfaction from providing youths with free bikes, and teaching them how to care for them. CYRUS MCCRIMMON/THE DENVER POST VIA GETTY IMAGES What’s ahead in chapter 16: Erikson’s Theory: Generativity versus Stagnation Other Theories of Psychosocial Development in Midlife Levinson’s Seasons of Life • Vaillant’s Adaptation to Life • Is There a Midlife Crisis? Stability and Change in Self-Concept and Personality Possible Selves • Self-Acceptance, Autonomy, and Environmental Mastery • Coping with Daily Stressors • Gender Identity • Individual Differences in Personality Traits ■ BIOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT What Factors Promote Psychological Well-Being in Midlife? Relationships at Midlife Marriage and Divorce • Changing Parent– Child Relationships • Grandparenthood • Middle-Aged Children and Their Aging Parents • Siblings • Friendships ■ SOCIAL ISSUES: HEALTH Grandparents Rearing Grandchildren: The Skipped-Generation Family Vocational Life Job Satisfaction • Career Development • Career Change at Midlife • Planning for Retirement 434 O ne weekend when Devin, Trisha, and their 24-year-old son, Mark, were vacationing together, the two middle-aged parents knocked on Mark’s hotel room door. “Your dad and I are off to see a crafts exhibit,” Trisha explained. “Feel free to stay behind,” she offered, recalling Mark’s dislike for such events as an adolescent. “That exhibit sounds great!” Mark replied. “I’ll meet you in the lobby.” “Sometimes I forget he’s an adult!” exclaimed Trisha as she and Devin returned to their room to grab their coats. “It’s been great to have Mark with us—like spending time with a good friend.” In their forties and fifties, Trisha and Devin built on earlier strengths and intensified their commitment to leave a legacy for others. When Mark faced a difficult job market after graduating from college, he returned home to live with Trisha and Devin for several years. With their support, he took graduate courses while working part-time, found steady employment in his late twenties, and married in his midthirties. With each milestone, Trisha and Devin felt a sense of pride at having escorted a member of the next generation into responsible adult roles. Family activities increased as Trisha and Devin related to their son as an enjoyable adult companion. Challenging careers and more time for community involvement, leisure pursuits, and each other contributed to a richly diverse and gratifying time of life. The midlife years were not as smooth for two of Trisha and Devin’s friends. Fearing that she might grow old alone, Jewel frantically pursued her quest for an intimate partner. She attended singles events, used online dating services, and traveled in hopes of meeting a like-minded companion. Jewel also had compensating satisfactions— friendships that had grown more meaningful, a warm relationship with a nephew and niece, and a successful consulting business. Tim, Devin’s best friend from graduate school, had been divorced for over five years. Recently, he had met Elena and had come to love her deeply. But in addition to her own divorce, Elena was dealing with a troubled daughter and a career change. Whereas Tim had reached the peak of his career and was ready to enjoy life, Elena wanted to recapture much of what she had missed in earlier decades, including opportunities to realize her talents. “I don’t know where I fit into Elena’s plans,” Tim wondered aloud on the phone with Trisha. Increasing awareness of limited time ahead prompts adults to reevaluate the meaning of their lives, refine and strengthen their identities, and reach out to future generations. Most people make modest adjustments in their outlook, goals, and daily lives. But a few experience profound inner turbulence and initiate major changes, Erikson’s Theory: Generativity versus Stagnation 16.1 According to Erikson, how does personality change in middle age? Erikson’s psychological conflict of midlife is called generativity versus stagnation. Generativity involves reaching out to others in ways that give to and guide the next generation. It is under way in early adulthood through work, community service, and 435 often in an effort to make up for lost time. Together with advancing years, family and work transitions contribute greatly to emotional and social development. More midlifers are addressing these tasks than ever before, now that the majority of baby boomers are in their fifties and sixties (see page 10 in Chapter 1 to review how baby boomers have reshaped the life course). And the current midlife generation is healthier, better educated, and—despite the late-2000s economic recession—more financially secure than any previous midlife cohort (Mitchell, 2016). As our discussion will reveal, they have brought increased selfconfidence, social consciousness, and vitality—along with great developmental diversity—to this period of the lifespan. A monumental survey called Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), conducted in the mid-1990s, has contributed enormously to our understanding of midlife emotional and social development. Its nationally representative sample included over 7,000 U.S. 25- to 75-year-olds, enabling those in the middle years to be compared with younger and older individuals. Through telephone interviews and self-administered questionnaires, participants responded to over 1,100 items addressing psychological, health, and background factors, yielding unprecedented breadth of information in a single study. The research endeavor also included “satellite” studies, in which subsamples of respondents were questioned in greater depth on key topics. And it was extended longitudinally, with 75 percent of the sample recontacted in the early to mid-2000s. In the early 2010s, researchers expanded the MIDUS sample to include over 3,500 additional U.S. participants (Delaney, 2014). They also launched a Japanese offshoot, called Midlife in Japan (MIDJA), consisting of over 1,000 participants. MIDUS has greatly enriched our knowledge of the multidimensional and multidirectional nature of midlife change. Hence, our discussion repeatedly draws on MIDUS, at times delving into its findings, at other times citing them alongside those of other investigations. Let’s turn now to Erikson’s theory and related research, to which MIDUS has contributed. ● childbearing and child rearing. Generativity expands greatly in midlife, when adults focus more intently on extending commitments beyond oneself (identity) and one’s life partner (intimacy) to a larger group—family, community, or society. The generative adult combines the need for self-expression with the need for communion, integrating personal goals with the welfare of the larger social world (McAdams, 2014). Erikson (1950) selected the term generativity to encompass everything generated that can outlive the self and ensure society’s continuity and improvement: children, ideas, products, works of art. Although parenting is a major means of realizing generativity, HOLA IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood Through his work with severely malnourished children in Niger, this nurse, affiliated with the Nobel Prize–winning organization Doctors Without Borders, integrates personal goals with a broader concern for society. it is not the only means: Adults can be generative in other family relationships (as Jewel was with her nephew and niece), as mentors in the workplace, in volunteer endeavors, and through many forms of productivity and creativity. Notice, from what we have said so far, that generativity brings together personal desires and cultural demands. On the personal side, middle-aged adults feel a need to be needed—to attain symbolic immortality by making a contribution that will survive their death (Kotre, 1999; McAdams, Hart, & Maruna, 1998). This desire may stem from a deep-seated evolutionary urge to protect and advance the next generation. On the cultural side, society imposes a social clock for generativity in midlife, requiring adults to take responsibility for the next generation through their roles as parents, teachers, mentors, leaders, and coordinators (McAdams & Logan, 2004). And according to Erikson, a culture’s “belief in the species”—the conviction that life is good and worthwhile, even in the face of human destructiveness and deprivation—is a major motivator of generative action, which has improving humanity as its goal. The negative outcome of this stage is stagnation: Once people attain certain life goals, such as marriage, children, and career success, they may become self-centered and self-indulgent. Adults may express their self-absorption in many ways—through lack of interest in young people (including their own children), through a focus on what they can get from others rather than what they can give, and through taking little interest in being productive at work, developing their talents, or bettering the world in other ways. Much research confirms that among people diverse in SES and ethnicity, generativity tends to increase in midlife (McAdams, 2011, 2014; Newton & Stewart, 2010; Rossi, 2004b). And just as Erikson’s theory suggests, highly generative people appear especially well-adjusted—low in anxiety and depression; high in autonomy, self-acceptance, and life satisfaction; more open to different viewpoints; and more likely to have successful mar- riages and close friends (An & Cooney, 2006; Grossbaum & Bates, 2002; Versey & Newton, 2013; Westermeyer, 2004). They also care greatly about the welfare of others in general (Zacher et al., 2011). For example, generativity is associated with more effective child rearing—higher valuing of trust, open communication, transmission of generative values to children, and an authoritative style (Peterson, 2006; Peterson & Duncan, 2007; Pratt et al., 2008). And as Figure 16.1 illustrates, midlife generativity is positively correlated with broad engagement in community and society (Jones & McAdams, 2013). Although these findings characterize adults of all backgrounds, individual differences in contexts for generativity exist. In some studies, including the MIDUS survey, fathers scored higher in generativity than childless men (Marks, Bumpass, & Jun, 2004; McAdams & de St. Aubin, 1992). Similarly, in an investigation of well-educated women from ages 43 to 63, those with family commitments (with or without a career) expressed greater generative concerns than childless women who were solely focused on their careers (Newton & Stewart, 2010). Perhaps parenting spurs especially tender, caring attitudes toward succeeding generations. For low-SES men with troubled pasts as sons, students, workers, and intimate partners, fatherhood can provide a context for highly generative, positive life change (Roy & Lucas, 2006). As one former gang member, who earned an associate’s degree and struggled to keep his teenage sons off the streets, explained, “I came through the depths of hell to try to be a father. I let my 60 Correlation with Self-Rated Generativity JEAN-MARC GIBOUX/GETTY IMAGES 436 CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood 50 40 30 20 10 0 Public Service Motivation Civic Engagement Political Participation Religious Participation FIGURE 16.1 Relationship of middle-aged adults’ generativity to civic, political, and religious engagement. Among a sample of EuropeanAmerican and African-American 55- to 59-year-olds, self-rated generativity was positively correlated with diverse measures of involvement in community and society—especially, public service motivation (attraction to public policy making, commitment to public interest causes) and civic engagement (participating in community organizations, raising money for charity), but also political participation (voting, expressing political opinions to others) and participation in a religious community. (Based on Jones & McAdams, 2013.) CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood sons know, ‘You’re never without a daddy, don’t you let anybody tell you that.’ I tell them that if me and your mother separate, I make sure that wherever I go, I build something for you to come to” (p. 153). Finally, compared with European Americans, African Americans more often engage in certain types of generativity. They express a stronger desire to leave a legacy to their broader community (rather than just their immediate family) and offer more social support to community members (Hart et al., 2001; Newton & Jones, 2016). A life history of greater support from church and extended family may strengthen these generative values and actions. Among European Americans, religiosity and spirituality are also positively associated with generative activity (Son & Wilson, 2011; Wink & Dillon, 2008). Highly generative middleaged adults often indicate that as children and adolescents, they internalized moral values rooted in a religious tradition, which provided lifelong encouragement for generative action (McAdams, 2013a). Especially in individualistic societies, belonging to a religious community or believing in a higher being may help preserve generative commitments. Other Theories of Psychosocial Development in Midlife tive meaning in being older. Perhaps because of the double standard of aging (see page 424 in Chapter 15), most middleaged women express concern about appearing less attractive as they grow older (Rossi, 2004a). But middle-aged men— particularly non-college-educated men, who often hold blue-collar jobs requiring physical strength and stamina— are also highly sensitive to physical aging (Miner-Rubino, Winter, & Stewart, 2004). Compared with previous midlife cohorts, U.S. baby boomers are especially interested in controlling physical changes—a desire that has helped energize a huge industry of anti-aging cosmetic products and medical treatments (Jones, Whitbourne, & Skultety, 2006). And sustaining a youthful subjective age (feeling younger than one’s actual age) is positively related to self-esteem and psychological well-being, with stronger associations among American than Western-European middle-aged and older adults (Keyes & Westerhof, 2012; Westerhof & Barrett, 2005; Westerhof, Whitbourne, & Freeman, 2012). In the more individualistic U.S. context, a youthful self-image seems more important for viewing oneself as self-reliant and capable of planning for an active, fulfilling late adulthood. ● 16.2 Describe Levinson’s and Vaillant’s views of psychosocial development in middle adulthood, and discuss similarities and differences between men and women. 16.3 Does the term midlife crisis reflect the typical experience of middle ● adulthood? Erikson’s broad sketch of psychosocial change in midlife has been extended by Levinson and Vaillant. Let’s revisit their theories, which were introduced in Chapter 14. Levinson’s Seasons of Life Return to page 387 to review Levinson’s eras (seasons of life). His interviews revealed that with the transition to middle age, adults become more aware that from now on, more time will lie behind than ahead, so they view the remaining years as increasingly precious. This leads some to make drastic revisions in their life structure: divorcing, remarrying, changing careers, or displaying enhanced creativity. Others make smaller changes in the context of marital and occupational stability. Whether these years bring a gust of wind or a storm, most people turn inward for a time, focusing on personally meaningful living. According to Levinson, to reassess and rebuild their life structure, middle-aged adults must confront four developmental tasks. Each requires the individual to reconcile two opposing tendencies within the self, attaining greater internal harmony. ● Young–old: The middle-aged person must seek new ways of being both young and old. This means giving up certain youthful qualities, transforming others, and finding posi- 437 ● Destruction–creation: With greater awareness of mortality, the middle-aged person focuses on ways he or she has acted destructively. Past hurtful acts toward parents, intimate partners, children, friends, and co-workers are countered by an intensified desire to be generative, through charitable giving, community volunteering, mentoring young people, or fashioning creative products. Masculinity–femininity: The middle-aged person must better balance masculine and feminine parts of the self. For men, this means greater acceptance of traits of nurturance and caring, which enhance close relationships and compassionate exercise of authority in the workplace. For women, it generally means greater openness to characteristics of autonomy and assertiveness. Recall from Chapter 8 that people who combine masculine and feminine traits have an androgynous gender identity. Later we will see that androgyny is associated with favorable adjustment. Engagement–separateness: The middle-aged person must forge a better balance between engagement with the external world and separateness. For many men, and for women with successful careers, this may mean reducing concern with achievement in favor of attending more fully to oneself. But some women who have been devoted to child rearing or an unfulfilling job may feel compelled to move in the other direction, pursuing a long-desired ambition (Etaugh, 2013). At age 48, Elena left her position as a reporter for a smalltown newspaper, earned an advanced degree in creative writing, accepted a college teaching position, and began writing a novel. Tim, in contrast, recognized his intense desire for a gratifying romantic partnership. By scaling back his own career, he realized he could grant Elena the time and space she needed to rebuild her work life—and that doing so might deepen their attachment to each other. AP PHOTO/JULIE JACOBSON 438 CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood Individuals in blue-collar jobs with few possibilities for advancement may seek alternative ways to make their work more meaningful. This construction worker became a union shop steward, representing the interests of her coworkers in dealings with management. People who flexibly modify their identities in response to age-related changes yet maintain a sense of self-continuity are more aware of their own thoughts and feelings and are higher in self-esteem and life satisfaction (Sneed et al., 2012). But when poverty, unemployment, and lack of a respected place in society dominate the life course, energies are directed toward survival rather than realistically addressing age-related changes. And even adults with secure, well-paid jobs may find that employment conditions restrict possibilities for growth. In her early forties, Trisha left a large law firm, where she felt constant pressure to bring in high-fee clients and received little acknowledgment of her efforts, for a small practice. Opportunities for advancement ease the transition to middle adulthood. Yet these are less available to women than to men. Individuals of both sexes in blue-collar jobs also have few possibilities for promotion. Consequently, they make whatever vocational adjustments they can—becoming active union members, shop stewards, or mentors of younger workers (Christensen & Larsen, 2008). Vaillant’s Adaptation to Life Whereas Levinson interviewed 35- to 45-year-olds, Vaillant (1977, 2002)—in his longitudinal research on well-educated men and women—followed participants past the half-century mark. Recall from Chapter 14 how adults in their late fifties and sixties extend their generativity, becoming “keepers of meaning,” or guardians of their culture (see page 388). “Passing the torch”— concern that the positive aspects of their culture survive— became a major preoccupation. In societies around the world, older people are guardians of traditions, laws, and cultural values. This stabilizing force holds in check too-rapid change sparked by the questioning and challenging of adolescents and young adults. As people approach the end of middle age, they focus on longer-term, less-personal goals, such as the state of human relations in their society. And they become more philosophical, accepting the fact that not all problems can be solved in their lifetime. Is There a Midlife Crisis? Levinson (1978, 1996) reported that most men and women in his samples experienced substantial inner turmoil during the transition to middle adulthood. Yet Vaillant (1977, 2002) saw few examples of crisis but, rather, slow and steady change. These contrasting findings raise the question of how much personal upheaval actually accompanies entry to midlife. Are self-doubt and stress especially great during the forties, and do they prompt major restructuring of the personality, as the term midlife crisis implies? Trisha and Devin moved easily into this period, whereas Jewel, Tim, and Elena sought alternative life paths. Clearly, wide individual differences exist in response to midlife. Yet Americans often assume that a midlife crisis will occur between ages 40 and 50, perhaps because of culturally induced apprehension of aging. But little evidence supports this view of middle age as a turbulent time. When MIDUS participants were asked to describe “turning points” (major changes in the way they felt about an important aspect of their lives) that had occurred during the past five years, most were positive, involving fulfilling a dream or learning something good about oneself (Wethington, Kessler, & Pixley, 2004). Overall, turning points rarely resembled midlife crises. Even negative turning points generally led to personal growth— for example, a layoff that sparked a positive career change. Asked directly if they had ever experienced something they would consider a midlife crisis, only one-fourth of the MIDUS respondents said yes. And they defined such events more loosely than researchers do. Some reported a crisis well before age 40, others well after age 50 (Wethington, 2000). Most attributed it not to age but rather to challenging life events. Another way of exploring midlife questioning is to ask adults about life regrets—attractive opportunities for lifechanging activities they did not pursue or lifestyle changes they did not make. Among a nationally representative sample of Americans, life regrets centered mainly on romantic and family relationships, followed by education, career, finances, parenting, and health (Morrison & Roese, 2011). Experiencing regrets is consistently associated with less favorable psychological well-being (Schiebe & Epstude, 2016). But regrets can also serve a positive function if people mull over what went wrong in the past and, based on new insights, take whatever corrective action is possible. By late midlife, with less time ahead to make life changes, people’s interpretation of regrets plays a major role in their wellbeing. Mature, contented adults acknowledge a past characterized by some lost opportunities but are able to disengage from them, investing in currently attainable, personally rewarding goals (King & Hicks, 2007). Among a sample of several hundred 60- to 65-year-olds diverse in SES, about half expressed at least one regret. Compared to those who had not resolved their disappointments, those who had come to terms with them (accepted and identified some eventual benefits) or had “put the best face on things” (identified benefits but still had some lingering regret) reported better physical health and greater life satisfaction (Torges, Stewart, & Miner-Rubino, 2005). CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood In sum, life evaluation is common during middle age. Most people make changes that are best described as turning points rather than drastic alterations of their lives. By midlife, an increasing number find that aspects of their life paths can no longer be modified, but they often come to see the “silver lining” in their circumstances (King & Hicks, 2007; Morrison & Roese, 2011). The few midlifers who are in crisis typically have had early adulthoods in which gender roles, family pressures, or low income and poverty severely limited their ability to realize personal goals, at home or in the wider world. Ask yourself CONNECT Describe evidence on life regrets illustrating that adaptation to midlife is the combined result of growing older and social experiences. APPLY After years of experiencing little personal growth at work, 42-year-old Mel looked for a new job and received an attractive offer in another city. Although the thought of moving far from extended family and close friends was distressing, after several weeks of soul searching, he took the new job. Was Mel’s dilemma a midlife crisis? Why or why not? REFLECT Think of a middle-aged adult whom you admire. Describe the various ways that individual expresses generativity. Stability and Change in Self-Concept and Personality 16.4 Describe changes in self-concept, personality, and gender identity in middle adulthood. 16.5 Discuss stability and change in the “big five” personality traits in adulthood. Midlife changes in self-concept and personality reflect growing awareness of a finite lifespan, longer life experience, and generative concerns. Yet certain aspects of personality remain stable, revealing the persistence of individual differences established during earlier periods. Possible Selves On a business trip, Jewel found a spare afternoon to visit Trisha. Sitting in a coffee shop, the two women reminisced about the past and thought aloud about the future. “It’s been tough living on my own and building the business,” Jewel said. “What I hope for is to become better at my work, to be more communityoriented, and to stay healthy and available to my friends. Of course, I would rather not grow old alone, but if I don’t find that special person, I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that I’ll never have to face divorce or widowhood.” Jewel is discussing possible selves, future-oriented representations of what one hopes to become and what one is afraid of 439 becoming. Possible selves are the temporal dimension of selfconcept—what the individual is striving for and attempting to avoid. To lifespan researchers, these hopes and fears are just as vital in explaining behavior as people’s views of their current characteristics. Indeed, possible selves may be an especially strong motivator of action in midlife, as adults attach increased meaning to time (Frazier & Hooker, 2006). As we age, we may rely less on social comparisons in judging our self-worth and more on temporal comparisons—how well we are doing in relation to what we had planned. Throughout adulthood, the personality traits people assign to their current selves show considerable stability. A 30-year-old who says he is cooperative, competent, outgoing, or successful is likely to report a similar picture at a later age. But reports of possible selves change greatly. Adults in their early twenties mention many possible selves, and their visions are lofty and idealistic—being “perfectly happy,” “rich and famous,” “healthy throughout life,” and not being “a person who does nothing important.” With age, possible selves become fewer in number, more modest and concrete, and less far-off in realization. They are largely concerned with performance of roles and responsibilities already begun— “being competent at work,” “being a good husband and father,” “putting my children through college,” “staying healthy,” and not being “a burden to my family” (Bybee & Wells, 2003; Chessell et al., 2014; Cross & Markus, 1991). What explains these shifts in possible selves? Because the future no longer holds limitless opportunities, adults preserve mental health by adjusting their hopes and fears. To stay motivated, they must maintain a sense of unachieved possibility, yet they must still manage to feel good about themselves and their lives despite disappointments (Bolkan & Hooker, 2012). For example, although Jewel feared loneliness in old age, she reminded herself that marriage can lead to equally negative outcomes, which made not having attained an important interpersonal goal easier to bear. In a study of middle-aged and older adults, those with balanced possible selves—related hoped-for and feared outcomes, such as “a better relationship with my grown sons” and “not alienating my daughters-in-law”—made greater self-rated progress toward attaining their self-relevant goals over a 100-day period (Ko, Mejía, & Hooker, 2014). Because balanced possible selves provide both an approach and avoidance focus, they may be more motivating than either hoped-for or feared possible selves alone. Self-Acceptance, Autonomy, and Environmental Mastery An evolving mix of competencies and experiences leads to changes in certain aspects of personality during middle adulthood. In Chapter 15, we noted that midlife brings gains in expertise and practical problem solving. Middle-aged adults also offer more complex, integrated descriptions of themselves than do younger and older individuals (Labouvie-Vief, 2003, 2015). Furthermore, midlife is typically a period in which the number of social roles peaks—spouse, parent, worker, and engaged community member. And status at work and in the community 440 CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood typically rises, as adults take advantage of opportunities for leadership and other complex responsibilities. These changes in cognition and breadth of roles undoubtedly contribute to other gains in personal functioning. In research on adults ranging in age from the late teens into the seventies, and in cultures as distinct as the United States and Japan, three qualities increased from early to middle adulthood: ● ● ● Self-acceptance: More than young adults, middle-aged people acknowledged and accepted both their good and bad qualities and felt positively about themselves and life. Autonomy: Middle-aged adults saw themselves as less concerned about others’ expectations and evaluations and more concerned with following self-chosen standards. Environmental mastery: Middle-aged people saw themselves as capable of managing a complex array of tasks easily and effectively (Karasawa et al., 2011; Ryff & Keyes, 1995). As these findings indicate, midlife is generally a time of increased comfort with the self, independence, assertiveness, and commitment to personal values (Keyes, Shmotkin, & Ryff, 2002; Stone et al., 2010). Many midlifers seem to conclude that through effort and self-discipline, they have come close to fulfilling their potential—a likely reason for the rise in overall life satisfaction from early to middle adulthood in longitudinal research (Galambos et al., 2015). Increased contentment with oneself and one’s life accomplishments might explain why middle age is sometimes referred to as “the prime of life.” At the same time, factors contributing to psychological wellbeing differ substantially among cohorts, as self-reports gathered from 25- to 65-year-old MIDUS survey respondents reveal (Carr, 2004). Among women who were born during the babyboom years or later, and who thus benefited from the women’s movement, balancing career with family predicted greater selfacceptance and environmental mastery. But also consider that women born before or during World War II who sacrificed career to focus on child rearing—expected of young mothers in the 1950s and 1960s—were similarly advantaged in self-acceptance. Likewise, men who were in step with prevailing social expectations scored higher in well-being. Baby-boom and younger men who modified their work schedules to make room for family responsibilities—who fit their cohort’s image of the “good father”—were more self-accepting. But older men who made this accommodation scored much lower in self-acceptance than those who focused on work and conformed to the “good provider” ideal of their times. (See the Biology and Environment box on the following page for additional influences on midlife psychological well-being.) Notions of well-being, however, vary among cultures. In comparisons of Japanese and Korean adults with same-age U.S. MIDUS participants, the Japanese and Koreans reported lower levels of psychological well-being, largely because they were less willing than the Americans to endorse individualistic traits, such as self-acceptance and autonomy, as characteristic of themselves (Karasawa et al., 2011; Keyes & Ryff, 1998b). Consistent with their interdependent orientation, Japanese and Koreans’ highest well-being scores were on positive relations with others. Coping with Daily Stressors In a MIDUS satellite study in which more than 1,000 participants were interviewed on eight consecutive evenings, researchers found an early- to mid-adulthood plateau in frequency of daily stressors, followed by a decline as work and family responsibilities ease and leisure time increases (Almeida & Horn, 2004). Compared with older people, young and midlife adults also perceived their stressors as more disruptive and unpleasant, perhaps because they often experienced several at once, and many involved financial risks and children. But recall from Chapter 15 that midlife brings an increase in effective coping strategies. Middle-aged individuals are more likely to identify the positive side of difficult situations, postpone action to permit evaluation of alternatives, anticipate and plan ways to handle future discomforts, and use humor to express ideas and feelings without offending others (Proulx & Aldwin, 2016). Notice how these efforts flexibly draw on both problemcentered and emotion-centered strategies. Why might effective coping increase in middle adulthood? Other personality changes seem to support it. Complex, integrated self-descriptions—which increase in midlife, indicating an improved ability to blend strengths and weaknesses into an organized picture—predict a stronger sense of personal control over outcomes and good coping strategies (Hay & Diehl, 2010; Labouvie-Vief, 2015). Midlife gains in emotional stability and confidence in handling life’s problems may also contribute (Roberts et al., 2007; Roberts & Mroczek, 2008). These attributes predict work and relationship effectiveness—outcomes that reflect the sophisticated, flexible coping of middle age. Some midlifers, however, experience stressors so intense that their capacity to cope disintegrates. Over the past 15 years, suicides among U.S. middle-aged adults rose by 25 percent. Currently, the suicide rate for midlifers nearly matches that of people 85 and older (whose rate is the highest). White men between 45 and 64 showed the sharpest rise, while also displaying elevated death rates from drug and alcohol abuse. Most were poorly educated, economically disadvantaged, and suffered from physical and mental health problems (American Society for Suicide Prevention, 2016; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016d). These trends may reflect strengthening associations among poverty, declining health, and hopelessness in middle adulthood that are unique to the United States. Steady declines in midlife mortality occurred in Australia, Canada, and Western Europe during the same time period. Gender Identity Many studies report an increase in “masculine” traits in women and “feminine” traits in men across middle age. Women became more confident, self-sufficient, and forceful, men more emotionally sensitive, caring, considerate, and dependent. These tendencies emerged in cross-sectional and longitudinal research, in CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood 441 Biology and Environment W hat factors contribute to individual differences in psychological well-being at midlife? Consistent with the lifespan perspective, biological, psychological, and social forces are involved, and their effects are interwoven. Good Health and Exercise Good health affects energy and zest for life at any age. But during middle and late adulthood, taking steps to improve health and prevent disability becomes a better predictor of psychological well-being. Many studies confirm that engaging in regular exercise—walking, dancing, jogging, or swimming—is more strongly associated with self-rated health and a positive outlook in older than in younger adults (Bherer, 2012). Physical activity enhances self-efficacy and effective stress management (see page 423 in Chapter 15). And sustained, moderate-intensity physical activity is linked to better executive function, more so in middle age than early adulthood (Maxwell & Lynn, 2015; Weinstein, Lydick, & Biswabharati, 2014). Improved executive function, in turn, may contribute to midlifers’ self-efficacy and self-regulation. Sense of Control and Personal Life Investment Middle-aged adults who report a high sense of control over events in various aspects of their lives—health, family, and work—also report more favorable psychological well-being. Sense of control contributes further to selfefficacy (Lang, 2016). It also predicts use of more effective coping strategies, including seeking social support, and thereby helps sustain a positive outlook in the face of health, family, and work difficulties (Lachman, Neupert, & Agrigoroaei, 2011). Personal life investment—firm commitment to goals and pursuit of those goals—also adds to mental health and life satisfaction (Staudinger & Bowen, 2010). According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a vital wellspring of happiness is flow—the psychological state of being ARTPARADIGM/DIGITAL VISION/GETTY IMAGES What Factors Promote Psychological Well-Being in Midlife? so engrossed in a demanding, meaningful activity that one loses all sense of time and self-awareness. People describe flow as the height of enjoyment, even as an ecstatic state. The more people experience flow, the more they judge their lives to be gratifying (Nakamura & Csikszentmihalyi, 2009). Flow depends on perseverance and skill at complex endeavors that offer potential for growth (Rich, 2013). These qualities are well-developed in middle adulthood. Close Friendships and a Good Marriage Supportive friendships improve mental health by promoting positive emotions and protecting against stress (Fuller-Iglesias, Webster, & Antonucci, 2015). In a survey of college alumni, those who preferred occupational prestige and high income to close friends were twice as likely as other respondents to describe themseves as “fairly” or “very” unhappy (Myers, 2000). A good marriage boosts psychological wellbeing even more. The role of marriage in mental health increases with age, becoming a powerful predictor by late midlife (Be, Whisman, & Uebelacker, 2013; Rauer & Albers, 2016). U.S. middle-aged adults in cohabiting relationships do not necessarily benefit similarly. But in Western Europe, where cohabitation signifies high relationship commitment, cohabitors and married people report equally positive well-being (Hansen, Moum, & Shapiro, 2007). Although not everyone is better off married, the link between marriage and wellbeing is similar in many nations, suggesting that marriage changes people’s behavior in ways that make them better off (Diener et al., 2000). Married partners monitor each other’s health and offer care in times of illness. They also earn and save more money than single people, and income is linked to higher wellbeing (Sacks, Stevenson, & Wolfers, 2012). Furthermore, sexual satisfaction predicts mental health, and married couples have more satisfying sex lives than singles (see Chapter 13). Complex endeavors that offer potential for growth engender flow—a pleasurable psychological state of deep engrossment. The perseverance and skill essential for flow are well-developed at midlife. Mastery of Multiple Roles Success in handling multiple roles—spouse, parent, worker, community volunteer—is linked to psychological well-being. In the MIDUS survey, as role involvement increased, both men and women reported greater environmental mastery, more rewarding social relationships, heightened sense of purpose in life, and more positive emotion. Furthermore, adults who occupied multiple roles and who also reported high control (suggesting effective role management) scored especially high in well-being—an outcome that was stronger for less-educated adults (Ahrens & Ryff, 2006). Control over roles may be vital for individuals with lower educational attainment, whose role combinations may be particularly stressful and who have fewer economic resources. Finally, among nonfamily roles, community volunteering in the latter part of midlife contributes uniquely to psychological well-being (Choi & Kim, 2011; Ryff et al., 2012). It may do so by strengthening self-efficacy, generativity, and altruism. MORSA IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES 442 CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood Among earlier cohorts, gender identity became more androgynous in midlife, reflected in the ease with which this son openly expresses affection for his father. people varying in SES, and in diverse cultures—not just Western industrialized nations but also village societies (Fry, 1985; Gutmann, 1977; James et al., 1995; Jones, Peskin, & Livson, 2011). Consistent with Levinson’s theory, gender identity in midlife seemed to become more androgynous—a mixture of “masculine” and “feminine” characteristics. But in more recently gathered self-reports, men’s and women’s endorsement of “masculine” and “feminine” traits showed little change throughout adulthood (Lemaster, Delaney, & Strough, 2015; Strough et al., 2007). Cohort effects may explain the contradictory findings: More recent participants were mostly adolescents or young adults during the women’s movement of the 1970s and 1980s, or were born after it. Influenced by this time of major social change, adults of diverse ages—and especially women—may have been more likely than previous cohorts to endorse an androgynous mix of “masculine” and “feminine” traits. The demands of middle age may help explain why, in a wealth of earlier research, it is associated with increased androgyny. For example, some evidence reveals a link between children’s departure from the home and men’s greater openness to the “feminine” side of their personalities (Huyck, 1998). Perhaps men’s need to enrich a marital relationship after children depart prompts an awakening of emotionally sensitive traits. In other research, women who attained high status in their careers gained most in dominance, assertiveness, and outspokenness by their early fifties (Wink & Helson, 1993). Also, a greater number of midlife women remain divorced, are widowed, or encounter discrimination in the workplace. Self-reliance and assertiveness are vital for coping with these circumstances. In sum, a complex combination of social roles and life conditions underlies the midlife rise in androgyny, which seems to have spread to other age periods in response to cultural changes favoring gender equality. In Chapter 8, we noted that androgyny predicts high self-esteem. In adulthood, it is also associated with cognitive flexibility, creativity, advanced moral reasoning, and psychosocial maturity (Prager & Bailey, 1985; Runco, Cramond, & Pagnani, 2010; Waterman & Whitbourne, 1982). People who integrate the masculine and feminine sides of their personalities tend to be psychologically healthier, perhaps because they are able to adapt more easily to life’s challenges. Individual Differences in Personality Traits Trisha had always been more organized and hard-working, Jewel more gregarious and fun-loving. Once, the two friends traveled together. At the end of each day, Trisha was disappointed if she had not kept to a schedule and visited every tourist attraction. Jewel liked to “play it by ear”—wandering through streets and stopping to talk with shopkeepers and residents. In previous sections, we considered personality changes common to many middle-aged adults, but stable individual differences also exist. The hundreds of personality traits on which people differ have been reduced to five basic factors, often referred to as the “big five” personality traits: neuroticism, extroversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Table 16.1 provides a description of each. Notice that Trisha is high in conscientiousness, whereas Jewel is high in extroversion. Longitudinal and cross-sectional studies of men and women in many countries reveal that agreeableness and conscientiousness increase from adolescence through middle age, whereas neuroticism declines, and extroversion and openness to experience do not change or decrease slightly—changes that reflect “settling down” and greater maturity (McCrae & Costa, 2006; Roberts, Walton, & Viechtbauer, 2006; Schmitt et al., 2007; Soto et al., 2011; Srivastava et al., 2003). The consistency of these cross-cultural findings has led some researchers to conclude that adult personality change is genetically influenced. They also note that individual differences in the “big five” traits are large and highly stable: A person who scores high or low at one age is likely to do the same at another, over intervals ranging from 3 to 30 years (McCrae & Costa, 2006). How can there be high stability in personality traits, yet significant changes in aspects of personality discussed earlier? Theorists concerned with change due to experience focus on how personal needs and life events induce new strategies and goals; their interest is in “the human being as a complex adaptive system” (Block, 2011, p. 19). In contrast, those who emphasize stability due to heredity measure personality traits on which individuals can easily be compared and that are present at any time of life. To resolve this apparent contradiction, we can think of adults as changing in overall organization and integration of personality as they adapt to changing life circumstances but doing so on a foundation of basic, enduring dispositions. But even the “big five” traits are responsive to life experiences: For example, people in stable jobs and romantic relationships, compared to those without these commitments, show greater gains in conscientiousness and agreeableness and declines in neuroticism over time (Hudson & Fraley, 2016; Lodi-Smith & Roberts, 2007). These findings confirm that personality remains open to change. CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood 443 TABLE 16.1 The “Big Five” Personality Traits TRAIT DESCRIPTION Neuroticism Individuals who are high on this trait are worrying, temperamental, self-pitying, self-conscious, emotional, and vulnerable. Individuals who are low are calm, even-tempered, self-content, comfortable, unemotional, and hardy. Extroversion Individuals who are high on this trait are affectionate, talkative, active, fun-loving, and passionate. Individuals who are low are reserved, quiet, passive, sober, and emotionally unreactive. Openness to experience Individuals who are high on this trait are imaginative, creative, original, curious, and liberal. Individuals who are low are downto-earth, uncreative, conventional, uncurious, and conservative. Agreeableness Individuals who are high on this trait are soft-hearted, trusting, generous, acquiescent, lenient, and good-natured. Individuals who are low are ruthless, suspicious, stingy, antagonistic, critical, and irritable. Conscientiousness Individuals who are high on this trait are conscientious, hard-working, well-organized, punctual, ambitious, and persevering. Individuals who are low are negligent, lazy, disorganized, late, aimless, and nonpersistent. Source: McCrae & Costa, 2006; Soto, Kronauer, & Liang, 2016. Ask yourself CONNECT List cognitive gains that typically occur during middle adulthood. (See Chapter 15, pages 425–427 and 430–431.) How might they support midlife personality changes? APPLY Jeff, age 46, suggested to his wife, Julia, that they set aside time once a year to discuss their relationship—both positive aspects and ways to improve. Julia was surprised because Jeff had never before expressed interest in working on their marriage. What midlife developments probably fostered this new concern? REFLECT List your hoped-for and feared possible selves. Then ask family members in early and middle adulthood to do the same. Are their reports consistent with age-related research findings? Explain. Relationships at Midlife 16.6 Describe the middle adulthood phase of the family life cycle, including marriage, divorce, parent–child relationships, and grandparenthood. 16.7 Describe midlife sibling relationships and friendships. The emotional and social changes of midlife take place within a complex web of family relationships and friendships. Although some middle-aged people live alone, the vast majority—about 90 percent in the United States—live in families, about 65 percent with a spouse, 15 percent with a cohabiting partner, and 10 percent as unmarried or formerly married adults residing with children and/or other relatives (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016a). Partly because they have ties to older and younger generations in their families and partly because their friendships are wellestablished, midlifers have a larger number of close relationships than adults of other age periods do (Antonucci, Akiyama, & Takahashi, 2004). The middle adulthood phase of the family life cycle is often referred to as “launching children and moving on.” In the past, it was called the “empty nest,” but this phrase implies a negative transition. For most people, middle adulthood is a liberating time, offering a sense of completion and opportunities to strengthen social ties and rekindle interests. As our discussion in Chapter 14 revealed, increasing numbers of young adults are living at home due to role transitions and financial challenges, yielding launch–return–relaunch patterns for many middle-aged parents. As adult children depart and marry, middle-aged parents must adapt to new roles of parent-inlaw and grandparent. At the same time, they must establish a different type of relationship with their aging parents, who may become ill or infirm and die. Middle adulthood is marked by the greatest number of exits and entries of family members. Let’s see how ties within and beyond the family change during this time of life. Marriage and Divorce Although not all couples are financially comfortable, middle-aged households are well-off compared with other age groups. Americans between 45 and 54 have the highest average annual income, and contemporary middle-aged adults—more of whom have earned college and postgraduate degrees and live in dual-earner families—are financially better off than previous midlife generations (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016a). Partly because of increased education and financial security, the contemporary social view of marriage in midlife is one of expansion and new horizons. These forces strengthen the need to review and adjust the marital relationship. For Devin and Trisha, this shift was gradual. By middle age, their marriage had permitted satisfaction of family and individual needs, endured many changes, and culminated in deeper feelings of love. Elena’s marriage, in contrast, became more conflict-ridden as her teenage daughter’s problems introduced added strains and as departure of children made LORI ADAMSKI PEEK/WORKBOOK STOCK/GETTY IMAGES 444 CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood For many middle-aged couples, having forged a relationship that permits satisfaction of both family and individual needs results in deeper feelings of love. marital difficulties more obvious. Tim’s failed marriage revealed yet another pattern. With passing years, the number of problems declined, but so did the love expressed (Gottman & Gottman, 2015). As less happened in the relationship, good or bad, the couple had little to keep them together. Research suggests that compared to other couples, lesbian partners use more effective communication styles (Zdaniuk & Smith, 2016). In interviews with over 200 heterosexual and samesex couples in their forties, fifties, and sixties, the lesbian couples described more openness and honesty in sharing thoughts and feelings (Mackey, Diemer, & O’Brien, 2000). Across heterosexual, lesbian, and gay participants, physical affection, low conflict, and sense of fairness predicted a deeper sense of psychological intimacy. Divorce has increasingly become a route to resolving an unsatisfactory marriage in midlife. Although the overall U.S. divorce rate has declined over the past two decades, the divorce rate of U.S. adults ages 50 and older has doubled over this period (Brown & Lin, 2013). Divorce at any age takes a heavy psychological toll, but midlifers seem to adjust more easily than younger people (Marks & Lambert, 1998). Midlife gains in practical problem solving and effective coping strategies may reduce the stressful impact of divorce. Still, individual differences in adjustment exist, with middleaged adults who end a highly distressed marriage fairing best (Amato, 2010). Many ultimately report gains in happiness—an outcome stronger among women than men (Bourassa, Sbarra, & Whisman, 2015). In Chapter 14, we saw that women’s happiness suffers more than men’s in a poor-quality marriage with unequal sharing of authority and responsibilities. When these and other relationship difficulties cannot be solved, divorce eventually brings emotional relief. Nevertheless, for a considerable number of women, marital breakup severely reduces standard of living. Consequently, in mid- life and earlier, divorce contributes to the feminization of poverty—a trend in which women who support themselves or their families have become the majority of the adult population living in poverty, regardless of age and ethnic group. The gender gap in poverty has declined in Western nations, due to women’s increased labor market participation and public policies supporting women and families. But because of weaker U.S. public policies (see Chapter 2), the gender gap in poverty remains higher in the United States than in other Western countries (Kim & Choi, 2013). Longitudinal evidence reveals that middle-aged women who weather divorce successfully tend to become more tolerant, comfortable with uncertainty, nonconforming, and self-reliant in personality—factors believed to be fostered by divorce-forced independence. And both men and women reevaluate what they consider important in a healthy relationship, placing greater weight on equal friendship and less on passionate love than they had the first time (Baum, Rahav, & Sharon, 2005; Lloyd, Sailor, & Carney, 2014; Schneller & Arditti, 2004). Less is known about long-term adjustment following divorce among middle-aged men, perhaps because most enter new relationships and remarry within a short time. Changing Parent–Child Relationships As noted earlier, most parents “launch” adult children sometime in midlife. Parents usually adjust well; only a minority have difficulty. Investment in nonparental relationships and roles, children’s characteristics, parents’ marital and economic circumstances, and cultural forces affect the extent to which this transition is expansive and rewarding or sad and distressing. After their son Mark secured a career-entry job and moved out of the family home permanently, Devin and Trisha felt a twinge of nostalgia. Beyond this, they returned to rewarding careers and community participation and delighted in having more time for each other. Wide cultural variations exist in the social clock for children’s departure. Recall from Chapter 14 that many young people from low-SES homes and with cultural traditions of extendedfamily living do not leave home early. In the Southern European countries of Greece, Italy, and Spain, parents often actively delay their children’s leaving. In Italy, for example, parents believe that moving out without a “justified” reason, usually marriage, signifies that something is wrong in the family. At the same time, Italian adults grant their grown children extensive freedom (Crocetti, Rabaglietti, & Sica, 2012). Parent–adult-child relationships are usually positive, making living with parents attractive. With the end of parent–child coresidence, parental authority declines sharply. But continued positive communication is important to middle-aged adults. Departure of children is a relatively minor event as long as contact and pleasurable interaction are sustained (Fingerman et al., 2016; Mitchell & Lovegreen, 2009). When it results in conflict or little or no communication, parents’ psychological well-being declines. Whether or not they reside with parents, young-adult children who are “off-time” in development—who deviate from parental expectations about how the path to adult responsibilities CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood Grandparenthood Two years after Mark married, Devin and Trisha were thrilled to learn that a granddaughter was on the way. Compared with a generation ago, the arrival of grandparenthood occurs a decade or more later, due to postponement of marriage and childbearing. Currently, the average age of becoming a grandparent for U.S. women is 49; for U.S. men, 52. In Canada and many Western European nations, grandparenthood is further delayed, to the mid- to late fifties, likely because of factors linked to reduced childbearing, including lower rates of poverty, unintended births, and religiosity (Leopold & Skopek, 2015; Margolis, 2016). Yet a longer life expectancy means that many adults will spend onethird or more of their lifespan in the grandparent role. Meanings of Grandparenthood. Middle-aged adults typically rate grandparenthood as highly important, following closely behind the roles of parent and spouse but ahead of worker, son or daughter, and sibling (Reitzes & Mutran, 2002). Most people experience grandparenthood as a significant milestone, mentioning one or more of the following gratifications: ● ● ● ● Valued older adult—being perceived as a wise, helpful person Immortality through descendants—leaving behind not just one but two generations after death Reinvolvement with personal past—being able to pass family history and values to a new generation Indulgence—having fun with children without major childrearing responsibilities (Hebblethwaite & Norris, 2011) Grandparent–Grandchild Relationships. Grandparents’ styles of relating to grandchildren vary as widely as the meanings they derive from their new role. The grandparent’s and grandchild’s age and sex make a difference. When their granddaughter was young, Trisha and Devin enjoyed an affectionate, playful relationship with her. As she got older, she looked to them for information and advice in addition to warmth and caring. By the time their granddaughter reached adolescence, Trisha and Devin had become role models, family historians, and conveyers of social, vocational, and religious values. ©JACKSONVILLE JOURNAL/JAMEY DAVIDSMEYER/THE IMAGE WORKS should unfold—can prompt parental strain (Settersten, 2003). Consider Elena, whose daughter was doing poorly in her college courses and in danger of not graduating. The need for extensive parental guidance, at a time when she expected her daughter to be more responsible and independent, caused anxiety and unhappiness for Elena. Throughout middle adulthood, parents continue to give more assistance to children than they receive, especially while children are unmarried or when they face difficulties, such as marital breakup or unemployment (Ploeg et al., 2004; Zarit & Eggebeen, 2002). Support in Western countries typically flows “downstream”: Although ethnic variations exist, most middleaged parents provide more financial, practical, emotional, and social support to their offspring than to their aging parents, unless a parent has an urgent need (declining health or other crises) (Fingerman & Birditt, 2011; Fingerman et al., 2011a). In explaining their generous support of adult children, parents usually mention the importance of the relationship. And providing adult children with assistance enhances midlife psychological well-being (Marks & Greenfield, 2009). Clearly, middle-aged adults remain invested in their adult children’s development and continue to reap deep personal rewards from the parental role. However, the amount and type of support middle-aged adults provide vary with SES. Parents with more education and income give more financial assistance (Fingerman et al., 2012b). LowSES parents give more overall support, usually consisting of coresidence plus various types of intangible assistance—advice, help with child care, emotional encouragement, and companionship. Nevertheless, because of widespread single parenthood plus larger families, low-SES parents must divide their supportive resources among more offspring. Consequently, on average, low-SES parents are able to give less tangible and intangible support to each child than their higher-SES counterparts (Fingerman et al., 2015). Finding themselves devoting much time to giving support that is thinly spread and, therefore, less effective in helping children launch their lives is likely draining and disappointing to many low-SES parents. After children marry, parents must adjust to an enlarged family network that includes in-laws. Difficulties occur when parents do not approve of their child’s partner or when the young couple adopts a way of life inconsistent with parents’ values. Parents who take steps to forge a positive tie with a future daughteror son-in-law generally experience a closer relationship after the couple marries (Fingerman et al., 2012d). And when warm, supportive relationships endure, intimacy between parents and children increases over the adult years, with great benefits for parents’ life satisfaction (Ryff, Singer, & Seltzer, 2002). Members of the middle generation, especially mothers, usually take on the role of kinkeeper, gathering the family for celebrations and making sure everyone stays in touch. 445 Many grandparents derive great joy from an affectionate, playful relationship with young grandchildren. As this grandchild gets older, he may look to his grandfather for advice, as a role model, and for family history. 446 CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood who are related to the custodial parent (typically the mother) have more frequent contact with grandchildren. When family relationships are positive, grandparenthood provides an important means of fulfilling personal and societal needs in midlife and beyond. Grandparents are a source of pleasure, support, and knowledge for children, adolescents, and young adults. They also provide the young with firsthand experience in how older people think and function. In return, grandchildren become deeply attached to grandparents and keep them abreast of social change. Clearly, grandparenthood is a vital context for sharing between generations. Middle-Aged Children and Their Aging Parents The number of middle-aged Americans with at least one living parent has risen dramatically—from 10 percent in 1900 to more than 60 percent today (Wiemers & Bianchi, 2015). A longer life expectancy means that adult children and their parents are increasingly likely to grow old together. Frequency and Quality of Contact. Nearly two-thirds of older adults in the United States live close to at least one of their children, and frequency of contact is high through both visits and telephone calls (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016b). Proximity increases with age: Aging adults who move usually do so in the direction of kin, and younger people tend to move in the direction of their aging parents. Middle age is a time when adults reassess relationships with their parents, just as they rethink other close ties. Many adult children become more appreciative of their parents’ strengths and generosity and mention positive changes in the quality of the relationship, even after parents show physical declines. A warm, enjoyable relationship contributes to both parent and adult-child well-being (Fingerman et al., 2007, 2008; Pudrovska, 2009). Trisha, for example, felt closer to her parents and often asked them to tell her more about their earlier lives. SOLLINA IMAGES/THE IMAGE BANK/GETTY IMAGES Living nearby is the strongest predictor of frequent, faceto-face interaction with young grandchildren and a major contributor to feelings of closeness with older grandchildren. Most grandparents in Western nations live near enough to at least one grandchild to enable regular visits. But because time and resources are limited, number of “grandchild sets” (households with grandchildren) reduces contact (Bangerter & Waldron, 2014; Uhlenberg & Hammill, 1998). As grandchildren get older, distance becomes less influential and relationship quality more so: The extent to which adolescent or young-adult grandchildren believe their grandparent values contact is a good predictor of a close bond (Brussoni & Boon, 1998). Maternal grandmothers report more frequent visits with grandchildren than do paternal grandmothers, who are slightly advantaged over both maternal and paternal grandfathers (Uhlenberg & Hammill, 1998). Typically, relationships are closer between grandparents and grandchildren of the same sex and, especially, between maternal grandmothers and granddaughters—a pattern found in many countries (Brown & Rodin, 2004). Grandmothers also report higher satisfaction with the grandparent role than grandfathers, perhaps because grandmothers are more likely to participate in recreational, religious, and family activities with grandchildren (Reitzes & Mutran, 2004; Silverstein & Marenco, 2001). SES and ethnicity also influence grandparent–grandchild ties. In low-income families, grandparents are more likely to perform essential activities. For example, many single parents live with their families of origin and depend on grandparents’ assistance, including help with caregiving, to reduce the impact of poverty (Masten, 2013). As children experience family stressors, bonds with grandparents can serve as a vital source of resilience. In cultures that stress interdependence among family members, grandparents are absorbed into an extended-family household and often become actively involved in child rearing. When a Chinese, Korean, or Mexican-American maternal grandmother is a homemaker, she is the preferred caregiver while parents of young children are at work (Low & Goh, 2015; Williams & Torrez, 1998). Similarly, involvement in child care is high among Native-American grandparents. In the absence of a biological grandparent, an unrelated aging adult may be integrated into the family to serve as a mentor and disciplinarian for children (Werner, 1991). Increasingly, grandparents have stepped in as primary caregivers in the face of serious family problems. As the Social Issues: Health box on the following page reveals, a rising number of American children live apart from their parents in grandparent-headed households. Grandparents who take full responsibility for young children experience considerable emotional and financial strain. Because parents usually serve as gatekeepers of grandparents’ contact with grandchildren, relationships between grandparents and their daughter-in-law or son-in-law strongly affect the closeness of grandparent–grandchild ties. A positive bond with a daughter-in-law seems particularly important in the relationship between grandparents and their son’s children (Fingerman, 2004; Sims & Rofail, 2013). And after a marital breakup, grandparents In midlife, many adults develop warmer, more supportive relationships with their aging parents. At a birthday party for her mother, this daughter expresses love and appreciation for her mother’s strengths and generosity. CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood 447 Grandparents Rearing Grandchildren: The Skipped-Generation Family N early 2.7 million U.S. grandparents live with grandchildren but apart from the children’s parents in skippedgeneration families (Ellis & Simmons, 2014). The number of grandparents with primary responsibility for rearing grandchildren has increased over the past two decades, with an especially sharp rise during the economic recession of 2007 to 2009. The arrangement occurs in all ethnic groups, but more often in African-American, Hispanic, and NativeAmerican families than in European-American families. Although grandparent caregivers are more likely to be women than men, many grandfathers participate (Fuller-Thomson & Minkler, 2005, 2007). Grandparents generally step in when parents’ troubled lives—severe financial hardship, substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, family violence, or physical or mental illness—threaten children’s safety and security (Smith, 2016). Often these families take in two or more children. As a result, grandparents usually assume the parenting role under highly stressful life circumstances. Unfavorable child-rearing experiences have left their mark on the children, who show high rates of learning difficulties, depression, and antisocial behavior. Absent parents’ adjustment difficulties strain family relationships. Grandchildren also introduce financial burdens into households that often are already low-income (Hayslip, Blumenthal, & Garner, 2014; Henderson & Bailey, 2015). All these factors heighten grandparents’ emotional distress. Grandparent caregivers, at a time when they anticipated having more time for spouses, friends, and leisure, instead have less. Many report feeling emotionally drained, depressed, and worried about what will happen to the children if their own health fails (Henderson & Bailey, 2015). Some families are extremely burdened. Native-American caregiving grandparents are especially likely to be unemployed, to have a disability, Although custodial grandparents usually assume the parenting to be caring for several grandrole under highly stressful circumstances, most find compensating rewards in rearing grandchildren. children, and to be living in extreme poverty (Fuller-Thomson grandchildren—are especially helpful, yet & Minkler, 2005). only a minority make use of such intervenDespite great hardship, these grandpartions (Smith, Rodriguez, & Palmieri, 2010). ents seem to realize their widespread image Grandparents need special help in finding as “silent saviors,” often forging close emoout about and accessing support services. tional bonds with their grandchildren and Although their everyday lives are often using effective child-rearing practices (Gibson, stressful, caregiving grandparents—even 2005). Compared with children in divorced, those rearing children with serious problems— single-parent families, blended families, or report as much fulfillment in the grandparent foster families, children reared by grandparrole as typical grandparents do (Hayslip & ents fare better in adjustment (Rubin et al., Kaminski, 2005). The warmer the grandparent– 2008; Solomon & Marx, 1995). grandchild bond, the greater grandparents’ Skipped-generation families have a trelong-term life satisfaction (Goodman, 2012). mendous need for social and financial support Many grandparents mention joy from sharing and intervention services for troubled chilchildren’s lives and feelings of pride at children. Custodial grandparents with relatives dren’s progress. And some grandparents view and friends they can count on benefit in physithe rearing of grandchildren as a “second cal and mental health (Hayslip, Blumenthal, chance”—an opportunity to make up for & Garner, 2015). Others say that support earlier, unfavorable parenting experiences groups—for themselves and for their and “do it right” (Dolbin-MacNab, 2006). Middle-aged daughters forge closer, more supportive relationships with aging parents, especially mothers, than do middleaged sons (Suitor, Gilligan, & Pillemer, 2015). But this gender difference may be declining. Sons report closer ties and greater assistance to aging parents in recent than in previous studies. Changing gender roles are likely responsible. Because the majority of contemporary middle-aged women are employed, they face many competing demands on their time and energy. Consequently, men are becoming more involved in family responsibilities, including with aging parents (Fingerman & Birditt, 2011; Pew Research Center, 2013c). Despite this shift, women’s investment continues to exceed men’s. In cultures that emphasize interdependence, parents often live with their married children. For example, traditionally, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean aging parents moved in with a son and his wife, who tended to her in-laws’ needs; today, many parents live with a daughter and her family, too. This tradition of coresidence, however, is declining in some parts of Asia and in the United States, as more Asian and Asian-American aging adults choose to live on their own. And in a growing number of ELLEN B. SENISI Social Issues: Health 448 CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood Caring for Aging Parents. About one-fourth of U.S. adult children provide unpaid care to an ill or disabled aging adult (Stepler, 2015). The burden of caring for aging parents can be great. In Chapter 2, we noted that as birthrates have declined, the family structure has become increasingly “top-heavy.” Consequently, more than one older family member is likely to need assistance, with fewer younger adults available to provide it. The term sandwich generation is widely used to refer to the idea that middle-aged adults must care for multiple generations above and below them at the same time. Although only a minority of contemporary middle-aged adults who care for aging parents have children younger than age 18 at home, many are providing assistance to young-adult children and to grandchildren—obligations that, when combined with work and community responsibilities, can lead middle-aged caregivers to feel “sandwiched,” or squeezed, between the pressures of older and younger generations. Middle-aged adults living far from aging parents who are in poor health often substitute financial help for direct care, if they have the means. But when parents live nearby and have no spouse to meet their needs, adult children usually engage in direct care. Regardless of family income level, African-American, Asian-American, and Hispanic adults give aging parents more direct care and financial help than European-American adults do. And compared with their white counterparts, African Americans and Hispanics express a stronger sense of obligation, and find it more personally rewarding, to support their aging parents (Fingerman et al., 2011b; Roth et al., 2015; Shuey & Hardy, 2003). African Americans often draw on close, family-like relationships with friends and neighbors for caregiving assistance. In all ethnic groups, responsibility for providing care to aging parents falls more on daughters than on sons. Why are women usually the principal caregivers? Families turn to the person who seems most available—living nearby and with fewer commitments that might interfere with the ability to assist. These unstated rules, in addition to parents’ preference for same-sex caregivers (aging mothers live longer), lead more women to fill the role (see Figure 16.2). Daughters also feel more obligated than sons to care for aging parents (MetLife, 2011a; Pillemer & Suitor, 2013; Suitor et al., 2015). As Figure 16.2 shows, nearly one-fourth of American working women are caregivers; others quit their jobs to provide care. And the time they devote to caring for a chronically ill or disabled aging parent is substantial, averaging 20 hours per week (AARP, 2015; MetLife, 2011a). Nevertheless, men—although doing less than women—do contribute. In one investigation, employed men spent an average of 7½ hours per week caring for parents or parents-in-law (Neal & Hammer, 2007). Tim, for example, looked in on his father, a recent stroke victim, every evening, reading to him, running errands, making household repairs, and taking care of finances. His sister, however, provided more hands-on 40 Percentage of Adults Caring for Aging Parent these families, both the husband’s and wife’s aging parents receive support, though a bias toward providing greater practical and financial help to the son’s parents remains (Davey & Takagi, 2013; Kim et al., 2015; Zhang, Gu, & Luo, 2014). In AfricanAmerican and Hispanic families as well, coresidence is common. Regardless of living arrangements, relationship quality usually reflects patterns established earlier: Positive parent–child ties generally remain so, as do conflict-ridden interactions. The more positive the history of the parent–child tie, the more help given and received. Also, aging parents give more help to unmarried adult children and to those with disabilities. Similarly, adult children give more practical help and emotional support to aging parents who are widowed or in poor health (Suitor et al., 2016). At the same time, middle-aged adults do what they can to maximize the overall quantity of help offered, as needed: While continuing to provide generous assistance to their children because of the priority placed on the parent–child tie, midlifers augment the aid they give to their parents as parental health problems increase (Stephens et al., 2009). Even when parent–child relationships have been emotionally distant, many adult children offer more support as parents age, out of a sense of altruism and family duty. And parent–child bonds often become closer as parents get older (Fingerman et al., 2011a; Ward, Spitz, & Deane, 2009). In sum, as long as multiple roles are manageable and the experiences within each are generally positive, midlife intergenerational assistance as family members (aging parents) have increased needs is best characterized as resource expansion rather than as merely conflicting demands that detract from psychological well-being (Pew Research Center, 2013c; Stephens et al., 2009). Recall from the Biology and Environment box on page 441 that midlifers derive great personal benefits from successfully managing multiple roles. 35 Nonworking Working 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Men Women FIGURE 16.2 Baby boomers, by work status and gender, who provide basic personal care to an aging parent in poor health. A survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,100 U.S. men and women over age 50 with at least one parent living revealed that more nonworking than working adults engaged in basic personal care (assistance with such activities as dressing, feeding, and bathing). Regardless of work status, many more women than men were caregivers. (Adapted from The MetLife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers: Double Jeopardy for Baby Boomers Caring for Their Parents, June 2011, Figure 3. Reprinted by permission of The MetLife Mature Market Institute, New York, NY.) SOUMENNATH / GETTY IMAGES CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood As midlife progresses, more men become involved in caring for an aging parent with a chronic illness or disability. Although the experience is stressful, most help willingly and benefit personally, perhaps becoming more open to the “feminine” side of their personalities. care—cooking, feeding, bathing, managing medication, and doing laundry. The care sons and daughters provide tends to be divided along gender-role lines (Pinquart & Sörensen, 2006). As adults move from early to later middle age, the sex difference in parental caregiving declines. Perhaps as men reduce their vocational commitments, they grow more able and willing to provide basic care (Marks, 1996; MetLife, 2011a). At the same time, parental caregiving may contribute to men’s openness to the “feminine” side of their personalities. A man who cared for his mother, severely impaired by dementia, commented on how the experience altered his outlook: “When this caregiving journey started, I felt scared and unprepared. Now I feel privileged and empowered. I feel fortunate to be able to hold my mom and kiss her . . . she continues to teach me, every day” (Colbert, 2014). Most adult children benefit personally (Brown & Brown, 2014). But over time, the parent usually gets worse, and the caregiving task escalates. As Tim explained to Devin and Trisha, “One of the hardest aspects is the emotional strain of seeing my father’s physical and mental decline up close.” Caregivers who share a household with ill parents—about 23 percent of U.S. adult children—experience the most stress. Its greatest source is parental problem behavior, especially for caregivers of parents who have deteriorated mentally (Bastawrous et al., 2015). Tim’s sister reported that their father would wake during the night, ask repetitive questions, follow her around the house, and become agitated and combative. Parental caregiving often has emotional, physical, and financial consequences. It leads to role overload, high job absenteeism, exhaustion, inability to concentrate, feelings of hostility, anxiety about aging, and high rates of depression, with women more profoundly affected than men (Pinquart & Sörensen, 2006; Wang & Shi, 2016). Despite having more time to care for an ill parent, women who quit work fare especially poorly in adjustment, probably because of social isolation and financial strain (Bookman & Kimbrel, 2011). Positive experiences at work can actually reduce the stress of parental care as caregivers bring a favorable self-evaluation and a positive mood home with them. 449 In cultures and subcultures where adult children feel an especially strong sense of obligation to care for aging parents, the emotional toll is also high (Knight & Sayegh, 2010). In research on Korean, Korean-American, and European-American caregivers of parents with mental disabilities, the Koreans and Korean Americans reported higher levels of family obligation and care burden—and also higher levels of anxiety and depression—than the European Americans (Lee & Farran, 2004; Youn et al., 1999). And among African-American caregivers, women who strongly endorsed cultural reasons for providing care (“It’s what my people have always done”) fared less well in mental health (Dilworth-Anderson, Goodwin, & Williams, 2004). Social support is highly effective in reducing caregiver stress. In Denmark, Sweden, and Japan, a government-sponsored home helper system eases the burden of parental care by making specially trained nonfamily caregivers available, based on older adults’ needs (Saito, Auestad, & Waerness, 2010). In the United States, in-home care by a nonfamily caregiver is too costly for most families; less than one-third of nonpaid family caregivers report receiving supplementary paid help from others (AARP, 2015). And unless they must, few people want to place their parents in formal care, such as nursing homes, which also are expensive. Applying What We Know on page 450 summarizes ways to relieve the stress of caring for an aging parent—at the individual, family, community, and societal levels. We will address additional care options, along with interventions for caregivers, in Chapter 17. LOOK and LISTEN Ask a middle-aged adult caring for an aging parent in declining health to describe both the stressful and rewarding aspects of caregiving. What strategies does he or she use to reduce stress? To what extent does the caregiver share caregiving burdens with family members and enlist the support of community organizations? Siblings A survey of a large sample of ethnically diverse Americans revealed that sibling contact and support decline from early to middle adulthood, rebounding only after age 70 for siblings living near each other (White, 2001). Decreased midlife contact is probably due to the demands of middle-aged adults’ diverse roles. However, most adult siblings report getting together or talking on the phone at least monthly (Antonucci, Akiyama, & Merline, 2002). Despite reduced contact, many siblings feel closer in midlife, often in response to major life events (Stewart et al., 2001). Launching and marriage of children seem to prompt siblings to think more about each other. And when parents die, adult children often realize that they have become the oldest generation and must look to each other to sustain family ties. 450 CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood Applying what we Know Relieving the Stress of Caring for an Aging Parent STRATEGY DESCRIPTION Use effective coping strategies. Use problem-centered coping to manage the parent’s behavior and caregiving tasks. Delegate responsibilities to other family members, seek assistance from friends and neighbors, and recognize the parent’s limits while calling on capacities the parent does have. Use emotion-centered coping to reinterpret the situation positively, such as emphasizing the opportunity it offers for personal growth. Avoid denial of anger, depression, and anxiety in response to the caregiving burden, which heightens stress. Seek social support. Confide in family members and friends about the stress of caregiving, seeking their encouragement and help. So far as possible, avoid quitting work to care for an ill parent; doing so is associated with social isolation and loss of financial resources. Make use of community resources. Contact community organizations to seek information and assistance, in the form of caregiver support groups, in-home respite help, home-delivered meals, transportation, and adult day care. Press for workplace and public policies that relieve the emotional and financial burdens of caring for an aging parent. Encourage your employer to provide benefits, such as flexible work hours and employment leave, for caregiving. Communicate with lawmakers and other citizens about the need for improved health insurance plans that reduce the financial strain of caring for an aging parent on middle- and low-income families. © GERI ENGBERG/THE IMAGE WORKS Not all sibling bonds improve, of course. Recollections of parental favoritism in childhood, and fathers’ current favoritism, are associated with negativity in adult sibling relationships (Gilligan et al., 2013; Suitor et al., 2009). The influence of mothers’ current favoritism is complex. In one study, middle-aged children expressed greater closeness to siblings whom they perceived their mother favored, and reduced closeness to siblings their mother disfavored (Gilligan, Suitor, & Nam, 2015). Perhaps adult children were drawn toward or away from certain siblings by the same traits that had affected their mothers. Or they might have attempted to improve their own status with their mothers by bonding with favored siblings and avoiding disfavored ones. Large inequities in parental caregiving can also unleash sibling These middle-aged sisters express their mutual affection at a reunion. Even when they have only limited contact, siblings often feel closer in midlife. tensions (Silverstein & Giarrusso, 2010; Suitor et al., 2013). And when aging parents need care, sibling conflict worsens if perceptions of parental favoritism are present. In industrialized nations, sibling relationships are voluntary. In village societies, they are generally involuntary and basic to family functioning. For example, among Asian Pacific Islanders, family social life is organized around strong brother–sister attachments. A brother–sister pair is often treated as a unit in exchange marriages with another family. After marriage, brothers are expected to protect sisters, and sisters serve as spiritual mentors to brothers (Cicirelli, 1995). Cultural norms reduce sibling conflict, thereby ensuring family cooperation. Friendships As family responsibilities declined in middle age, Devin found he had more time to spend with friends. On Friday afternoons, he met several male friends at a coffee house, and they chatted for a couple of hours. But most of Devin’s friendships were couple-based—relationships he shared with Trisha. Compared with Devin, Trisha more often got together with friends on her own. Middle-aged friendships reflect the same trends discussed in Chapter 14. At all ages, men’s friendships are less intimate than women’s. Men tend to talk about sports, politics, and business, whereas women focus on feelings and life’s challenges. Women report a greater number of close friends and say they both receive from and provide their friends with more emotional support (Fiori & Denckla, 2015). Because of their demanding everyday lives, many midlifers welcome the ease of keeping in touch with friends through social media. Though falling short of young adults’ use, connecting regularly with friends through Facebook and other social CHAPTER 16 Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood media sites has risen rapidly among U.S. middle-aged adults (see Figure 16.3) (Perrin, 2015). As in early adulthood, women tend to be more active users. And users have more offline close relationships, sometimes using Facebook to revive “dormant” friendships. Still, for both sexes, number of friends declines from middle to late adulthood as people become less willing to invest in nonfamily ties that are not especially rewarding. As selectivity of friendship increases, older adults try harder to get along with friends (Luong, Charles, & Fingerman, 2011). Having chosen a friend, middle-aged people attach great value to the relationship and take extra steps to protect it. LOOK and LISTEN Ask a middle-aged couple you know well to describe the number and quality of their friendships today compared with their friendships in early adulthood. Does their report match research findings? Explain. 451 Ask yourself CONNECT Cite evidence that early family relationships affect middleaged adults’ bonds with adult children, aging parents, and siblings. APPLY Raylene and her brother Walter live in the same city as their aging mother, Elsie. When Elsie could no longer live independently, Raylene took primary responsibility for her care. What factors probably contributed to Raylene’s involvement in caregiving and Walter’s lesser role? REFLECT Ask one of your parents for his or her view of how the parent–child relationship changed as you transitioned to new adult roles, such as college student, career-entry worker, married partner, or parent. Do you agree? Vocational Life 16.8 Discuss job satisfaction and career development in middle adult- By midlife, family relationships and friendships support different aspects of psychological well-being. Family ties protect against serious threats and losses, offering security within a longterm timeframe. In contrast, friendships serve as current sources of pleasure and satisfaction, with women benefiting somewhat more than men (Levitt & Cici-Gokaltun, 2011). As middle-aged couples renew their sense of companionship, they may combine the best of family and friendship. Percentage Accessing Social Media Sites 100 90 80 70 Age 18–29 30–49 50–64 65+ 90% 77% 60 50 51% hood, with special attention to gender differences and experiences of ethnic minorities. 16.9 Discuss career change in middle adulthood. 16.10 Discuss the importance of planning for retirement. Work continues to be a salient aspect of identity and self-esteem in middle adulthood. More so than in earlier or later years, people attempt to increase the personal meaning and self-direction of their vocational lives. The large tide of baby boomers currently moving through midlife and (as we will see in Chapter 18) the desire of most to work longer than the previous generation means that the number of older workers will rise dramatically over the next few decades (Leonesio et al., 2012). Yet a favorable transition from adult worker to older worker is hindered by negative stereotypes of aging—incorrect assumptions of limited learning capacity, slower decision making, and resistance to change and supervision (Posthuma & Campion, 2009). Furthermore, gender discrimination continues to restrict the career attainments of many women. Let’s take a close look at middle-aged work life. 40 30 35% 20 10 0 12% 8 5 2 2005 2010 2015 Year Surveyed FIGURE 16.3 Gains in use of social media sites by age group from 2005 to 2015. Repeated surveys of large representative samples of U.S. adults revealed that use of social media sites increased substantially for all age groups. Though not as avid users as young adults, most middle-aged adults use social media sites, primarily Facebook. (From A. Perrin, 2015, “Social Media Usage: 2005–2015.” Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, Washington, D.C., October 8, 2015, Adapted by permission.) Job Satisfaction Job satisfaction increases in midlife in diverse nations and at all occupational l…