As an individual moves through adulthood, stability and change usually results from their personality. Psychologists Robert McCrae and Paul Costa held studies to help understand stability and change, they then came up with the five factors of personality. The five factors, recognized as O.C.E.A.N., involve openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (emotional stability). The factors and their traits are listed as followed:
Openness- imaginative or practical, interested in variety or routine, and independent or conforming
Conscientiousness-organized or disorganized, careful or careless, and disciplined or impulsive
Extraversion-social able or retiring, fun-loving or somber, and affectionate or reserved
Agreeableness- soft-hearted or ruthless, trusting or suspicious, and helpful or uncooperative
Neuroticism-calm or anxious, secure or insecure, and self-satisfied or self-pitying.
Each factor has three important traits that coincide with a person’s well-being, health, intelligence, their achievements and even their relationships. Depending on the personality factor, the higher level of the trait, the more improved or corrupt life will pan out. For example, in a decade, four out of five of the factors can predict health outcomes such as high levels of neuroticism being linked to more health concerns. Openness also contributes to cognitive function, increasing IQs and the ability to chase entrepreneurial objectives. I believe this is because once you start to gain knowledge about something new, it expands your crystalized or fluid intelligence. Studies also show that conscientiousness relates to GPA in college students. Lastly, those high on the trait of agreeableness were more likely to have a satisfying romantic relationship (Santrock, 2012).
Many lifestyle issues can effect a person’s development whether it’s physical or cognitive. Physically, skin begins to sag and obtain wrinkles, age spots appears and hair becomes thinner and may start to turn gray. Cosmetic surgery, dyeing ones hair and vitamins can help slow down the aging process. Another example includes reducing strength due to loss of muscle mass and degenerating bones. Studies show that keeping off the excess weight by being active and eating healthy can reduce these risks along with reducing dangers of cardiovascular disease. Although cognitively, our memory will start to decline during middle age and to avoid that we should use effective memory strategies like organization and imagery. Simple tasks like organizing lists of phone numbers into different categories or imagining the numbers as representation of object around the house can help improve memory as well (Santrok, 2012). During this time in development it’s mostly about being in control of your health and wellness.
According to Levinson, a midlife crisis can be explained as when an adult is reflecting on the past as well as preparing for the future; seeing midlife as an actual crisis. Valliant sees it differently, he believes not everyone has a midlife crisis because they are at their peak of success during this time. It’s viewed as an individual experiencing a crisis event during this time, but they will see to get over it; such as a bad week at work but home life is just fine. Therefore, life itself doesn’t become a crisis just because of the aging process.
Erikson’s theory- Erikson believes that his seventh stage of development which is Generativity vs. Stagnation is a major issue in middle adulthood. This occurrence is when adults have or have not achieved to pass on their skills, knowledge, and legacies to the next generation. Generativity incorporates aspiration while stagnation incorporates with “self-absorption”.
Helson’s theory-In Helson’s Mills College Study, she examined more than 100 women at different ages from the time they were seniors in college to their thirties, forties and fifties. The study concluded that women don’t go through midlife crisis, but through midlife consciousness. These women had to learn and control their impulses, learn not to be dependent on anyone else, mature their social skills and just work hard to achieve their future goals. If this was not achieved, they would not progress entirely as other women would.
Levinson’s theory-As said before, Levinson had the theory that men go through a midlife crisis. He believed if the transition from adolescence didn’t go well, then it will affect the future of adulthood. His theory only occurred men and the conflicts that were possible in adolescents such as: being young vs. being old, being destructive vs. being constructive, being masculine vs. beung feminie, and attatchment vs. separation. A good or bad reflect upon these would determine the midlife crisis for the male.
I personally believe that Erikson’s theory is a better explanation of middle adulthood mainly because it’s not biased and can involve both men and women. Unlike Helson whose theory revolved around women and Levinson whose study was all men, Erikson’s idea is general so it can concern normative life events meaning it can occur to anyone. A fine example would be two middle aged adults reflecting on their parenting skills; they may think “have I taught my children the best way I could in order for them to survive on their own?”. Appreciating their job as a parent or regretting their decision to pass more onto the next generation.