Human Development
A Cultural Approach
Chapter
11
Middle Adulthood
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Physical Development
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Physical Changes in Middle Adulthood
Changes in Sensory Abilities
• Vision declines
 Lens becomes less flexible
 Rods and cones diminish in numbers
• Hearing declines—especially for high
pitched sounds
 Cilia thin out
 Less flexible inner ear
• Environment also plays a role
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Physical Changes in Middle Adulthood
Changes in Reproductive Systems
• Climacteric—Fertility decline in midlife
• Menopause—End of monthly ovulation
and menstruation
• Timing influenced by genetics
• Variety of symptoms
 Include hot flashes, headaches, and
dizziness
• Culture can impact symptoms
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Physical Changes in Middle Adulthood
Changes in Reproductive Systems
• Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
 Severe menopause treatment
 Effective at reducing symptoms
 Strengthens bones and reduces colon
cancer
 Increased risk of stroke, heart attacks, and
breast cancer
 Over 60 advised against HRT
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Physical Changes in Middle Adulthood
Changes in Reproductive Systems
• Responses
 Typically enjoyed and welcomed
• Men’s changes include lowered
testosterone levels, sperm quality, and
quantity
• Possible evolutionary reason for no
male menopause
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Health and Disease
Health Problems
• Major health risks in middle adulthood
include sleep problems, osteoporosis,
cardiovascular problems, and cancer
• Sleep problems
 Common after 40
 Occurs with other problems as well
 May not get enough sleep
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Health and Disease
Health Problems
• Osteoporosis—bones become thin and
brittle as a result of rapid calcium
depletion
 Estrogen loss increases risk for women not
men
 Genetics risk factor for osteoporosis
 Lifestyle can have an affect
 Diet and regular exercise are protective
factors
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Health and Disease
Health Problems
• Cardiovascular disease- leading cause of
death among adults worldwide
 Risk factors include high fat diets, smoking,
lack of physical activity
 Stress is another factor
• CVD can be treated
• Protective factors: exercise, weight, and
aspirin daily
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Health and Disease
Health Problems
• Second leading cause of death among
adults
 Prostrate and breast cancer most common
- Genetic and environmental factors
 Treatments include chemotherapy,
radiation therapy, and surgery
 Best treatment is detection
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Health and Disease
Midlife Health and Later Development
Figure 11.2
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Vaillant Study
Cognitive Development
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Intelligence
Fluid and Crystallized
• Two kinds of intelligence
 Fluid intelligence—information processing,
discerning relations and processing speed
 Crystallized intelligence—accumulation of
knowledge
• Fluid intelligence rises and declines
• Crystallized intelligence peaks in midlife
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Intelligence
The Peak of Expertise
• Expertise peaks in middle adulthood
 Experience important
 Allows for efficient processing of
information
 Leads to automaticity
 A form of crystallized intelligence
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Information Processing in Middle Adulthood
Speed, Attention, and Memory
• Perceptual speed declines in middle
adulthood
• Decline in ability to focus attention
 Disregard the irrelevant information
• Decline in ability for divided attention
• Not a large decline in memory tasks
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Emotional and Social
Development
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Emotional and Self-Development
Self-Concept
• Self-Development peaks:
 Self-acceptance favorable
 Identity seems more favorable
 Increased autonomy
• Collectivist cultures
- May emphasize relations to others more
than self-development
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Emotional and Self-Development
Midlife Crisis
• Jung credited with coining the term
mid-life crisis
• Levinson and Jung believed it a time of
feeling confusion and turmoil
• Research has failed to find consistent
evidence of a midlife crisis
• Negative life events can occur but not
specific to middle adulthood
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Emotional and Self-Development
Generativity
• Erikson’s theory—Generativity versus
Stagnation
• Generativity is the motivation to
contribute to the well-being of future
generations
 Parenting, mentorship, tutoring
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Figure 11.5 Women’s Increased Identity Certainty and Generativity Through Middle
Adulthood The identity struggles of earlier stages diminish by midlife and generativity also increases.
Source: Stewart et al. (2001)
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Emotional and Self-Development
Gender Issues in Midlife
• Midlife sees a decline in restrictive
gender roles
 India—Middle adulthood women gain
position in the family and in religious
matters
• In many cultures women in midlife are
still deemed unattractive
• Cultures vary in women achieving
status and authority
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Map 11.1 Gender Empowerment Measure The Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) is based on
women’s representation in positions of political power, the percentage of women in professional and
technical occupations, and the ratio of females’ to males’ earned income. Which countries have the
highest and lowest GEM? To what extent is GEM related to economic factors (refer back to Map 1.2)?
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Emotional and Self-Development
Gender Issues in Midlife
• More opportunity but still not equal
• High status tradeoff
 Could cause frustration as women have to
sacrifice family goals for status
• Men more flexible in midlife
• Marital roles more egalitarian but
women still do bulk of household
chores
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Social and Cultural Contexts of
Development Family Relationships
• Mid-life parents have young adult or
emerging adulthood children
 Unmarried adult children at home tend to
be welcomed—Southern Europe and Japan
 Adult children leaving the home is both sad
and happy time—Northern Europe, U.S.,
UK
- Returning home positive if there are goals
• Parents still provide financial support
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Social and Cultural Contexts of
Development Family Relationships
• Relations with parents also vary
 Traditional cultures may live with parents
even if married
 Europe varies based on region
 Relations are mutually supportive
 Health of parent plays a role in relationship
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Social and Cultural Contexts of
Development Family Relationships
• Becoming a grandparent is a new role
 Daily household chores including childcare
 Involvement influenced by distance, and
relationship with in-laws
 Daughter-in-law relationship important
 Grandmothers tend to be more involved
 Role tends to be enjoyed
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Figure 11.6 Marital Satisfaction and Years Married For most couples, marital satisfaction rises
once their children grow into emerging adulthood and beyond. Source: Vaillant & Vaillant (1993)
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Social and Cultural Contexts of
Development Love and Sexuality
• Most divorce occurs in first 10 years of
marriage
• Midlife divorce tended to “fall out of
love”
 Many felt marriage over well before divorce
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Social and Cultural Contexts of
Development Love and Sexuality
• Midlife adults handle divorce stress
better than younger adults
• Women worse off financially
• Most men will remarry, but only about
33% of women will
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Social and Cultural Contexts of
Development Love and Sexuality
• Nonnormative events may make midlife
difficult for lesbians and gays
• Coming out in mid-life can have
positive effects and difficulties
• Single persons in midlife express desire
to be married
 Tend to enjoy freedom and independence
 Close friends are necessary
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Social and Cultural Contexts of
Development Love and Sexuality
• Cultural variation
 Middle adulthood seen as a time of turning
to spiritual purity
• Most Americans remain sexually active
• Hormonal changes may require
assistance for both men and women
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Social and Cultural Contexts
of Development Work
• Job satisfaction peaks
 More expertise
 More authority
 Acceptance of profession
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Social and Cultural Contexts
of Development Work
• Dissatisfaction can occur
 Pursue new challenges
 Glass ceiling (women)
 Burnout
• Involuntary unemployment can be
disruptive
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Social and Cultural Contexts
of Development Work
• Globalization of work has increased
some work instability
• Shift away from organizational careers
- Same job and same field for years
 Shift towards protean career
- Changeable and less linear
• Middle adulthood more difficult to
obtain these types of jobs
• Education may also create separation
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Social and Cultural Contexts of Development
Community and Leisure Activities
• Time spent in middle adulthood includes:




Community involvement
Watching television
Socializing with family and friends
Going on vacations
-
Enhances cognitive and physical functioning
Better physical health
More likely to avoid burnout
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
Table 11.1
Vacation Time in Developed Countries Source: Based on ILO (2011)
Human Development: A Cultural Approach
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett
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