Lecture 10: physical, cognitive and psychosocial development in middle adulthood Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Lecture 10: physical, cognitive and psychosocial development in middle adulthood Deck (34):

Middle Age: A Social Construct 

• No consensus on when it begins and ends
   • Changes in appearance and body functioning

   • Highly variable outcomes and expectations

• No specific biological or social events that mark its boundaries

   • Life expectancy determines “middle age”

• A state of mind? 


Life expectancy

Aus & NZ

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Physical functioning patterns

Organ reserve

Primary ageing
• Normal age-related changes

Secondary ageing
• Effects of illness or disease

• More variable

Physical functioning

• Peaks in early adulthood, plateaus, then starts to

decline (about 50)

• Organ reserve first to decline (the extra capacity of the lungs, heart etc to respond to exertion)


Physical Changes in:

• Strength
• Appearance

• Skin, hair colour, body build

• Cardiovascular system
• Respiratory system

• Sensory system
• Vision and hearing loss gradual

• Taste and smell slowly decrease 


Health and Health Compromising Behaviours 


• Greater focus on maintaining health in middle- age

   • Body monitoring

• Morbidity (cases of disease) and mortality rates increase

• Australian risk behaviours (National Health Survey 2007-2008):

    • 19% smokers; 21% risky alcohol consumption; 62% overweight or obese

• Health-promoting behaviours have physical and psychosocial benefits 


Breast Cancer 

• Breast cancer the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian women

• New cases doubled in last 20 years, mortality rate declined (early detection)

• Early detection predicts higher survival rate

    • Breast self-examinations

• Causes unknown – important to consider socio- historical context

• Psychosocial aspects (linked with depression and stress)


Prostate Cancer 

• Prostate cancer the most common cancer in Australian men

• Number of deaths similar to women with breast cancer

• Causes unknown
    • Family history, age

• Young men less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, but more likely to die from it

• Slow to grow 


Health and inequality

non-Indigenous vs Indigenous

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Health Risk Factors 

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Menopause marks the end of the reproductive phase of life

• Physical changes
• ERT (estrogen replacement),HRT (hormone replacement) – pros and cons


• Hormone levels stabilise and menopausal signs subside 


Reproductive Changes: Men 


• Male climacteric reduces fertility (age around 40-50, doesnt result in infertility)
• Male reproductive change is longer and slower than for females

• Physical changes
• Physical signs 

no research supports male enaropause (male menopause)


Conditions for good functioning in middle age (7)

  1. the absence of cardiovascular disease and other chonic diseases
  2. living in favourable circumstances
  3. substantial involvement in complex and intellectually stimulating activities
  4. flexible personality style at midlife
  5. being married to a spouse with high cognitive functioning
  6. high levels of performance speed
  7. personaly satisfaction with one's life's accomplishments in midlife or earlier


Crystallised and Fluid Intelligence 

Crystallised intelligence
• Learned processes, stored responses (vocabulary)

• Primary abilities
• Remain relatively stable with age

Fluid intelligence
• Processing new information and reasoning ability
• Relates to neurological development

• Declines from early adulthood (tied to neurological development)


Changes in Intelligence 

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Practical Intelligence 

  • Application of intellectual skills to everyday situations
  • Tested by solving real-world problems rather than abstract tasks
  • Practical abilities increase with age, may improve in middle age
  • Interpersonal problem-solving skills similar across adult age groups 



  • Form of crystallised intelligence
  • Specialised experience and knowledge in specific domain
  • Experience and expertise compensate for declining abilities
  • Compensatory mechanisms are domain- specific
  • Most intellectual functions are maintained through middle age and often beyond 


Variety of Experience 

• Popular images of midlife:

    • Boring, monotonous

    • Time of crisis
• Alternative perspective:

    • Prime of life
    • Self-descriptions most positive in 60s 


Midlife Crisis? 



  • Stressful crisis of identity?
  • Second adolescence?

Triggered by:

  • Review of one’s life
  • Awareness of mortality
  • Occurrence is rare (25%)

Ego-resiliency, or the ability to adapt, cope, and grow from negative life events

  • A key to transition rather than crisis 


Perceptions of Age 

  • More flexibility around what constitutes midlife than in the past
  • Perceptions of life stages vary by SES, work role, age, gender
  • Lower SES and negative health status associated with an older age identity
  • Social markers may be important in signalling mid-life 


Theories of Crisis: Jung 


Process of individuation

Psyche seen as collection of conflicts

   • Collective vs. personal unconscious

   • Unconscious vs. conscious

   • Anima vs. animus

• Unifying force of self not developed until middle age

Process of individuation
• Self takes over the role of the ego 


Normative Perspective: Helson 

Social clock
• Age-related personal goals and expectations

• More variation than previously

Normative events
• Age-marked or history-marked

Non-normative events
• Largely unpredictable
• May have positive or negative impact 


Erikson’s Stage Theory

Generativity versus stagnation 

Generativity versus stagnation

  • Personal legacy
  • Virtue of “care”
  • Most important in middle age
  • Link between generativity and well-being stronger for women than men

Generative acts

  • Agentic (concerned with self)
  • Communal (concerned with others)

Limited application to lesbian women 


Normative Crisis Models 

• Gould’s (1978) UCLA study
   • Significant middle adult transformation

• Vaillant’s (1977) Harvard Grant study

   • Invincibility gives way to limitations

• Levinson’s (1978) Yale study
   • Emphasis moves from past to future
   • Dream of adult accomplishment revised

Women experience role change rather than crisis 


Stability of Personality Traits 

Increase with age

Decrease with age

Continuity and change within middle age

• Work on personality traits has been used to debunk the myth of the midlife crisis

Increasing with age:
• Conscientiousness, agreeableness, dominance, emotional stability
Decreasing in old age:

• Openness to experience
Lifespan continuity and change

• Continuity – genes
• Change – normative and non-normative events 


Marriage and Divorce 

• Higher age of marriage and divorce over past two decades

Vulnerability-stress model
• Perceptions of marital quality impact on marital stability

Marital satisfaction
• Quality of marital interaction

• Similar demographics and values

• Dissimilar personalities 


Midlife Divorce 

  • 60% divorcing couples married more than 10yrs  
    • Why divorce?
      • Abuse (verbal, physical, emotional); differing values/lifestyles; infidelity; alcohol/drug abuse; falling out of love
  • Wives often experience lower standard of living
    • Effect stronger if they have children
  • Husbands often have reduced contact with children
    •  Long-term effect of lack of support
  • Kinkeeping skills important 


Marital Satisfaction Through the Family Life Cycle 

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Delayed parents

Parenting Adolescents


Delayed parents may be:
• Better prepared and more confident, BUT

• Have higher expectations

Parenting adolescents:
• Negative impact on marital relationship
• Parent/child relationships more egalitarian

• Relationships generally positive

Young adult children:
• Semiautonomous
• Intergenerational ambivalence 


Empty Nest? 

Empty nest associated with:
• Improved well-being, marital satisfaction

• Time and money to spare, time for couple to do things together

• Opportunities for self-development and autonomy, especially for mothers

Multigenerational families
• Positive and negative family impacts 



styles of grandparent caregiving

Styles of grandparent caregiving:

    • Avid, flexible, selective, or hesitant

• Surrogate parenting roles for grandchildren
    • Feel more experienced and relaxed, have more time and energy

• Challenges in roles, health, feeling unprepared, being unsure of their rights, and managing behaviour of grandchildren 


Ageing Parents 

Filial maturity

• “Sandwich generation”
• Relationships with parents relate to:

    • Gender, education, age, health, marital status of parents, distance

• Helping ageing parents is a new developmental task

    • Parental care tends to fall to daughter
    • Sons more likely to manage than provide care
    • Source of sibling conflict

• Filial maturity: Marcoen (1995); stage of life in which middle-aged children learn to accept and their parents’ need to depend on them 


Sibling Relationships 

• Pattern of changing relationships throughout lifespan

• Important role in times of crisis
• Death or poor parental health may strengthen bonds

• Gender and marital relationships impact on sibling relationships

• Current and retrospective perceptions of parental favouritism important 



• Parental death normative in midlife
• Feelings of loneliness, loss, guilt, uncertainty about life’s purpose

Tasks of grieving

   • Stocktaking
   • Reminiscence
   • Internalisation and passage

• May promote personal growth
   • Maturity, autonomy, purpose, meaning