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Theories of Adult Development

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This gist of the following  paper will discuss the life structure theory explained by a psychiatrist, Daniel Levinson. He did this piece of work together with his associates while working at Yale University Medical School. This theory tends to explain to the general public, enterprises, and social organizations that relationships are derived from an individual’s life structure. Levinson had a vision of a society that focuses on fulfilling the needs of adults; with the aim of giving them an easy task to put into their roles. Their roles in turn would benefit the young population in working on the foundations of their dreams.This paper will also look at the 6 phases of adulthood according to Levinson's theory.

My main reason for choosing this theory is because it comprehensively and evidently covers all stages of the human development. Levinson saw an essentiality of the growth and development of the humanity in such a manner that it would be more competent as well as more compassionate. His dream came as a result of the hard and tricky times that he had to go through in his mid-life transition to success. Levinson amalgamated a passionate, systematic interest in the entire human race with a loving inquisitiveness about nature. With his colleagues, they calculated the lives of fifty men from five diverse walks of life. The theory summarizes his findings that there exists a series of change-overs and stages of comparative constancy in the life of a male adult. Every transition assesses the preceding structure of life, and the man evaluates its relevance for the subsequent years. Transitions come into the picture during times of havoc and stress. Those times that stability strengthens someone are those with refreshed obligation and focus.

Levinson conducted series rigorous interviews with men and women in 1978 and 1987 respectively. He personally opted to do his theoretical assessment according to the stages men and women had gone through in their lifetime. The centrality of his theory is that life structures are a foundation of an individual’s pattern of life at any specific time. A person's life structure is molded by his/her social as well as physical environment. An array of individuals’ life structures mainly revolves family and work; however, other variables like religion, race, and financial status are important as well. In his theory, there are two key concepts; the Stable Period which involves the period when someone makes critical choices in life, and the Transitional Period which is the conclusion of an individual's stage and the commencement of a new one (Levinson 1978). Life for the period of these transitions may be either unsteady or smooth, but the quality and worth of one’s life obligations often transform between the beginning and end of that period. Levinson's four main seasonal cycles consist of the early adult transition, early adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood. In the beginning, Levinson (1978) studied 40 mature males between 35 and 45 years of age. Early adulthood comes when men bring into being their occupations and families. After an assessment of themselves at about the age of 38, men settle down and put their whole efforts toward career development. Then an additional transition happens at about the age of 40, as men recognize that certain ambitions will not be fulfilled. Throughout middle adulthood, men focus on their particular personality and put more effort for nurturing their abilities and assets. Lastly, the transition to late adulthood involves the reflection of the achievements, underperformances and failures that they celebrate the rest of life. Afterwards, in 1987 Levinson interviewed 45 women between 35 and 45 years of age. A third of them were homemakers, another one third college instructors, businesswomen had the same proportion. Generally, he realized that women experience a similar form of cycles just as men do. Nevertheless, the life stages of women are usually closely connected with the life cycle of the family.

Generally, in a deeper perspective, these periods of transition can be scrutinized to be six in number. When broken down, they include; early adult transition, between the ages of 17-22. This is when someone leaves adolescence and makes the first choices for adult life. The arrival into the adult world is between the ages of 22-28. During this time, individuals make decisions based on preliminary choices in affection, occupation, companionship, lifestyle and values. The age of 30 and beyond begins with a transition from 28-33 years of age. At this time, variations arise in the life structure; this can either be a moderate change or often a stressful predicament. The next stage is where an individual needs to relax, and Levinson branded it as Settling down. This occurs between the ages of 33-40. Here, there is an establishment of a niche in the society, advancement in a schedule, not only in family but also other career undertakings. Individuals are expected to reason and act as parents would do. This is the period where they face more challenging roles and anticipations. The fifth stage of life transition is the Mid-life transition between the ages of 40-45. Life structure poses as the main question, typically a period of crisis insignificance, direction, and worth of every single person's life.  Ignored fragments of oneself-e.g. talents, desires, and aspirations always have the capacity to be sought and expressed.  Men are perceived more as fathers and mothers than as brothers and sisters. This is in reference to other men who are to some extent younger and this message irritates them on their first encounter with it.  Moreover at this period, men develop a progressively more awareness of death as they are constantly reminded that life is short.  They turn into an active participation to attempt to leave a legacy, and this commonly forms the core characteristic of the second half of their lives. The next stage is termed as “entering middle adulthood” which is between the ages of 45-50. At this stage, choices are a necessity and a new life structure comes into the picture (Gergen 1985). An individual must pledge to new tasks.

Between the ages of 50-55, termed as age of 50 transitions, Levinson noted that one could not escape a moderate transition disaster. Therefore, matters that were not fully addressed in the preceding transitions came out vehemently. The ages of 55-60 are the Second middle adult structure whereby just as the period of settling, the men have to organize themselves for the subsequent transition which is from middle adulthood and into late adulthood. Some individuals embrace this time for upgrading and realization the ages of 50. Ages of 60-65, the late adult transition, forestalls the modification in the structure from the preceding period to late adulthood. Here, changes in career are to be expected, and this would have an impact on one’s self and associations. Deep reflection is associated with it and for some, this change is predominantly painful, so they attempt to avoid it. The Late adult era occurs from 65 years and above. The gentlemen must look into the sense of their earlier being, and begin to form the structure framed in the late adult transition. Considerably, further needs should be well-read about this period.

Daniel Levinson collected this information for his study many years ago, soon after the Great Depression.  Due to this period, men came from stable families, had truthful objectives for their life and developed into adults in the growing economy. Men who have matured in the previous 4-5decades, nevertheless, have had to cope with unstable families because of extraordinary divorce rates, and their objectives are much more problematic to achieve.  They have similarly to cope with a changing economy. Therefore, these modifications make it hard to relate Levinson's readings to the contemporary generation (Gergen 1991).

Adult development changes with a similar change in the surroundings of an individual. Someone’s social class determines his/her future as well as his/his physical environment. When an individual grows, he or she develops into a new form of being. His or her attitudes, thoughts, roles, appearance, values, and capabilities change according to the age bracket he or she falls. Though the expectations are always dictated by the external forces, people still try to adjust to a niche that fit them best. Therefore, as Daniel Levinson puts it, "Adults hope that life begins at 40, but the anxiety is that it ends there."

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