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The Middle Adulthood: Developmental Theories

Middle adulthood is the stage of development between my 35 to 45 years and is normally exited between the ages of 55 and 65. Between the ages of 35-65, people experience a great deal of changes in their lifestyle; their careers, finances, marriage and leisure activities (Wrightsman, 2002, p 178). For a number of individuals, midlife is normally the time to re-examine their lives, relationships, careers and even the meaning of it all, a situation that has normally been referred to as midlife crisis (Berger, 2004, p 132). A person also starts experiencing difficulties in hearing and seeing, some of the other changes include wrinkling of the skin, graying of the hair, sagging of the bodies and the yellowing of the teeth. This stage is also characterized by complications such as menopause, cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as a lot of stress (Chapman, Conroy and Sheehy, 2004, p 204).

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During this time, most adults normally have settled in their careers and are generally satisfied with their jobs and their commitment increases gradually into the sixties. The individual is also likely to start planning for retirement. Such reassessments at times lead to midlife career change. Many of the marriages either improve or deteriorate during this period mainly because this stage demands that couples adjust to the new changes in their lives; if they don’t, the marriage is likely to experience difficulties (Chapman, Conroy and Sheehy, 2004, p 204). During this time, leisure becomes a very integral part of the lives of the individual because it acts as a buffer to the stresses in their lives.

Charlotte, in her theory of human development is on the view that people tend to develop through their life span and also views them as social beings with capability to set and pursue personal goals as they mature (Buhler and Allen, 2006, p 76). According to her, healthy people continuously face challenges throughout their life, and during such circumstances they integrate tendencies which include meeting one’s needs of ego, love, sex and recognition. Another challenge is making self limiting adaptations by fitting in, belonging and remaining secure in the circumstances surrounding one’s life. In reacting to the challenges, the individual is likely to move towards creative expansion through self expansion and creative accomplishments (O’Connell and Russo, 2005, p. 234). The person also upholds and restores the inner order by being true to one’s conscience and values. Even though these difficulties may be difficult to reconcile, people who meet their lifelong development tend to go beyond self and self comfort and those who don’t end up being dedicated to chosen values. According to Charlotte, viewing a human being as a continuously developing being encourages fruitful explorations and a person is satisfied when he/she lives a life that matches his/her best gifts (Kazdin, 2000, p 483).

Daniel Levinson, in his theory of adult development suggests that development goes all the way into adulthood (Levinson, 2005, p 163). According to him, the social interaction and the environment in which one is brought up tends to play a significant role in the determining the path through which his/her life will follow although religion and race also tend to have some significance in the process.

This theory asserts that human development occurs in six stages, one being early adult transition (17-22 years) – this is the stage during which people leave adolescence and make preliminary choices in life (Levinson, 2005, p 164). The next stage that comes between the ages of 22 and 28 involves making initial choices in love life, occupation, friendship, values and lifestyle. The age between the 28th and the 33rd year is referred to as age 30 transition which involve changes in life structure, a progress in family and career. Midlife transition is the next stage of development that occurs between the ages of 40-45 (Levinson, 2005, p 164). This is the stage where meaning in life becomes an important aspect and the individual begins to be sensitive to the path his/her life should follow including redeeming the unexpressed talents and aspirations (Levinson, 2005, p 165). Moreover, midlife stage requires a lot of soul searching and living constructively and thoughtfully in order to achieve the desired fulfillment in life (Schneider, Bugental and Pierson, 2003, p 197). In the last stage, the individual enters middle adulthood and this occurs between the ages of 45 and 50 when a person makes new choices and must commit to new task (Levinson, 2005, p 165).

According to Mrs. T. a decade ago she was stressed, aggressive and always worrying but now her personality has changed and she is more relaxed, confident and easy going and this, she explains, is as a result of aging, health issues and being able to know herself better. She has also learnt to tolerate other people’s arrogance and rudeness. In addition, she feels that both female and male kids need to be treated equally by the society. In her argument, the employers are normally biased against the females. She has managed to develop confidence while handling the parents and learners; this has made them believe in her. She has also become more relaxed about family issues though concerned about issues. Indeed, Mrs. T argues that wives should work and provide for their families; media did not affect her since there were no TVs.

In relation to Charlotte’s theory of human development one can analyze the changes in the life of Mrs. T. Mrs. T. has been able to develop confidence over the years and this has greatly helped her in her career, she has also been able to fit in well with the people of a different character from hers (Kazdin, 2000, p 483). She has also been able to find a sense of belonging and a feeling of security since she says that she has learnt to be more relaxed about a number of issues in her life. She argues that the media in the modern day is making parenting a nightmare. T has been able to integrate the tendencies that Charlotte’s talks about in her life. She has been able to make self limiting adaptations by learning to tolerate those different from her, as well as being able to achieve creative expansion by learning to develop confidence in her work when handling the parents and school children.

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In relation to Levinson’s theory, Mrs. T is in the stage of midlife transition and she therefore experiences a crisis in meaning and value of her life. Mrs. T is being faced with crises of bringing up children who are being exposed to a lot of information through internet and television as she says that during her time there were only radios and so she was not really affected by them. Her children have become adults and are away from home, which makes her capitalize on trying to creating time for herself.

Mrs. T life highlights Charlotte’s theory in the sense that, first, it highlights an important aspect of development as a life long process (Massarik and Buhler, 2008, p 276). This is because she says that she has developed confidence in her work over the years and also learns to cope with people that are different to her as she gets older. She develops self limiting adaptations by learning to cope with the new technology and its effects on the children and by tolerating those indifferent to her (Massarik and Buhler, 2008, p 112). Moreover, she has integrated creative expansion in handling challenges by creative expression (Fried, 2001, p 93); this is evident because she learns that by expressing herself confidently to her learners and parents they will believe in her. She also upholds and restores the inner order by being true to her values and conscience. This is seen in her support of the need to have women work and the need to worry about the influence of the media on the children. Moreover, she has been able integrate the tendency of satisfying her need for recognition and feels confident that she has been successful as a teacher, and for this reason, she has achieved recognition from the parents.

The interview with Mrs. T illustrates the theory of human development by Levinson in that Mrs. T is in the stage of midlife. From the interview, one can see that Mrs. is in a crisis since she feels life has changed a lot as a result of the introduction of the internet and television therefore making upbringing of children quite a big challenge. She also expresses a desire to have the society offer both the boy child and the girl child equal opportunities both in the families as well as in the employment sector. This is actually in line with what Levinson says about the midlife stage where people have the desire or aspiration to change the neglected part of their lives. Mrs. T has also been involved with her children but at this time of her life, her children have become old enough and are out of home. She therefore feels more relaxed now and is focusing on her life. Mrs. T also says that her family members normally communicate quite well and her family members are open with each other. She also seems quite satisfied with her life and accomplishments and is happy with the steps she has made in life. In fact, she feels that she has succeeded as a teacher and she is very happy that she is able to handle the parents, the learners and even people who are different from her. This part of her life though is in conflict with what Levinson says.

Human development has been a thorny issue and has been discussed by so many psychologists like Sigmund Freud Eriksson. A good number of them agree that development occurs in stages and in each of the stages there are developmental milestones that an individual achieves. For a number of individuals, midlife is normally the time to re-examine their lives, relationships, careers and even the meaning of it all, this has normally been referred to as midlife crisis. It is important that one assess their lives critically before getting into late adulthood that mainly involves assessing ones accomplishment, a situation that Eriksson refers to as integrity vs. despair. A feeling of failure is likely to cause despair if an individual feels that he has not achieved his dreams.


Berger, K. (2004). The developing person through midlife span. New York. Worth publishing.

Buhler, C. and Allen, M. (2006).Introduction to humanistic psychology. California. Brooks/ Cole.

Chapman, A., Conroy, W. & Sheehy, N. (2004). Charlotte Buhler. In Biographical Dictionary of Psychology. New York, Routledge.

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Fried, B. (2001).The middle age crisis. NY, Harper and Row.

Kazdin, A. (2000). Charlotte Buhler. In Encyclopedia of Psychology. New York, Oxford University Press.

Levinson, D. (2005). Seasons of a woman’s life. New York, Random house value publishing.

Massarik, M. and Buhler, C. (2008).The course of human life: a study of goals in the humanistic perspective. New Mexico, Springer.

O’Connell, A. & Russo, N. (2005). Charlotte Buhler. In A Bio-Bibliographic Sourcebook. Westport, CT, Greenwood Press.

Schneider, K. Bugental, J. and Pierson, F. (2003). The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology: Leading Edges in Theory, Research, and Practice. London, Sage

Wrightsman, L. (2002). Adult Personality Development: Theories and concepts. London, Sage publications Inc.

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