Middle age can be defined as the period between young adulthood and the beginning of old age. While it is widely accepted that this lies between the ages of 45 and 65, it varies from one culture to the other as well as based on various other historic or past definitions of the stages f life. During this stage in ones life, maturity is seen as having reached its climax as the person begins to age. There are not any specific transitions into middle age, but most psychologists agree that middle aged people certainly show different behaviors as compared to both young adults and older people. As such, middle aged people have different physical, cognitive, personality, social, and emotional characteristics that distinguish them from other age groups. In order to attempt to understand the socio-emotional, physical, and cognitive development of middle-aged people, this paper is based on findings derived from two interviews of two middle aged people; Mr. Tim Crowley aged 49, and Mr. Wayne Carter aged 55. The interviews sought to understand the various issues that middle aged people go through in relation to prominent development theories in psychology such as those developed by Erikson, Vaillant, and Levinson.
Mr. Tim Crowleys Journey
Mr. Tim Crowley is a 49 year old school teacher. He has been teaching for the past 20 years and has worked in different school across the country. He has a stable and functional marriage founded on strong religious principles as he is a staunch Christian. He has three children aged 19, 15 and 10 years. From the interview, I gathered that Tim had a very good upbringing, where he formed a very strong positive relationship with his parents. Both of his parents were school teachers with strong religious backgrounds. Tim said that his parents have always been supportive of him and encouraged him to explore his world and live his life in the best way he could. He also had very supportive friends while growing, particularly, his friendship with Erick Bailey, with whom they are still in regular contact to date.
Both of his parents passed on ten years ago, an incident that took a toll on his life. Nevertheless, he has been able to find pride in his current family, as he says that his spouse is very supportive of him. One of his accomplishments in life, he says, is to be able o impart knowledge on younger people, helping them to grow into responsible adults and future leaders. He feels that through his teaching career, he is able to influence lots of things in the society and leave positive impact as some of his students have graduated to become influential people in the society. Thus, he is very proud of his contributions in the society.
Tim Crowley is an active member in the Church, where is the current lay leader in his local Lutheran Church. Family is one of his most important things in life. His advice to younger people is to always be positive and strive to achieve their dreams by staying focused regardless of the challenges they face. He sees most teenagers and young people falling into drugs and other crimes through peer pressure, something that was also common during his younger days. However, he reckons that with increased technological changes, todays youths face newer challenges than what he faced as a young man. However, he would not fancy switching places to become a younger person today as he has no regrets in his life growing up. He mostly remembers his younger years through the friendships he had, his academic life, and the good relationship he had with his parents and siblings. He feels that his sole purpose in life is to make the world a better place by influencing younger people to become even more responsible adults that the current crop of adult generations. He would like to be remembered for by his ability to have a positive influence on those around him and those who interact with him.
Mr. Wayne Carters Journey
Mr. Wayne Carter is a 55 year old former War veteran with the US Army. He was part of the Vietnam War, the as a young man who had just joined the army to fulfill his lifelong ambition. His career in the army has also seen him go to Iraq and Afghanistan where he had very different experiences. He suffered a tragic accident while on duty in Iraq, which led to him losing one of his legs. Most of his friends are his former colleagues in the Army, a good number of whom have already died. After returning from Iraq, Mr. Carter found it had to settle in his neighborhood and live life as a civilian citizen after spending so many years in the army. He divorced his wife of ten years, leading to development of very serious emotional and psychological issues. He has no siblings or children of his own. He also has relatively fewer friends and likes to live his life in solitude.
For the past six months, he has been receiving help from a local hospital that has created a wing that looks after the welfare of War Veterans in the region. It is through this program that Mr. Carter has been able to rediscover himself, and feels free to talk and engage with other people that show concern to him. He is part of a social group of former War Veterans where they meet regularly to share their experiences in the Army with the help of psychiatrist and counselors from the local hospital. He has given him a morale boost in his life after the challenges he has been through in the past five years after leaving the Army.
Nevertheless, he has very fond memories of his childhood and younger years. His biggest accomplishment is being able to make his dream of joining the military a reality. He is proud of his time in the military and his contributions towards improving security in the region. For younger people, his advice is to always follow ones dream.
Relating the Findings to Theory
Both Mr. Tim Crowley and Wayne Carter gave very meaningful insights about their lives and e issue they experience in their middle-age years. In as much as the two have gone through different life experiences, it is clear that their childhood years have had an influence in how they see life today. Their life story can be analyzed through a myriad of theories in psychology as illustrated below.
Eriksons concept of intimacy vs. isolation, derived from his psychosocial development theory can form a good foundation for understanding middle aged people. According to this concept, in their younger years, people are mostly concerned with forming good friendships and establishing stable relationships with others. However, as they get in to their middle ages, this becomes difficult. This is mostly due to the loneliness and isolation that middle aged people face. They are mostly concerned about their careers as opposed to forming friendships. This has been illustrated effectively in the life journeys for both Mr. Crowley and Carter. They had very lively childhoods, where they had very stable relationships, but the same has become harder to manage in their middle age.
Levinsons seasons of life theory is also important in understanding middle age. According to this theory, adult males are usually faced with four main conflicts in their middle ages. These are being young vs. being old, being destructive vs. being constructive, being masculine vs. being feminine, and being attached vs. being separated from those around them. Levinson notes that from the age of 40, an individual begins to change his or her values. This is the time that instability sets in and some people may go through emotional issues that come with divorce or separation form loved ones. This has been exemplified by the experience that Mr. Carter has had, after his time in the Military.
On the other hand, George Vaillants theory acknowledges that people go through different stages, which affect their personal, emotional, and cognitive development. In the younger years, people achieve tasks such as developing identity, intimacy, and career consolidation. However, as they get older, they begin to see life differently and tend to focus on other issues such as attaining integrity and focusing on the next generation. This is what has been illustrated by the life journey of Mr. Tim Crowley.
List of Interview Questions
1. What is an accomplishment that you are particularly proud of?
2. Do you feel that you are making vital contributions to society?
3. Are you a member of any social, work or community organizations?
4. How important is your family to you?
5. What is your best childhood memory? Why?
6. What has been the most significant invention in your lifetime? Why?
7. What has been your best accomplishment? Why?
8. What is a goal that would like to accomplish in the next five years? Why?
9. What is a piece of advice that you would offer to someone younger than you?
10. How is life most similar being a teen in your day as compared with life for teens today?
11. How is life different being a teen in your day as compared with life for teens today?
12. Would you want to trade places with today's teenagers and live in the world they have grown up in (technology, etc) rather than the way that you grew up?
13. Did you go to university or college? Why or why not? How did you decide what you wanted to study?
14. How did you decide what you wanted to do with your life? How do you feel about that choice?
15. What do you remember about your 20s? 30s? 40s? 50s? 60s? What events stand out in your mind? How was each age different from the one before it?
16. What do you remember about holiday celebrations? Is there one holiday memory that stands out for you?
17. How did you feel about raising your children? What was the best part? The hardest part?
18. What makes you proud of your children?
19. What do you see as your place or purpose in life? How did you come to that conclusion?
20. What would you like your children and grandchildren to remember about you?
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