Chp.3 Theory in Adult Developmentf14
Part I (Part II next week)

On-Line Orientation Class Syllabus Assignments *


This chapter will cover two consecutive weeks. This week we will consider the human life-cycle from the psychological perspective of adult development. This view suggests that we move through stages or identifiable  periods in our development. You have already read about the biological perspective and learned that each of us ages at different rates and that not all parts of our bodies age at the same time. The psychological perspective means we are looking at personality development, how we become individuals, metaphors or figures of speech that allows us to compare ourselves to others and changes throughout our life time. These perspectives are useful to help us understand how we became the person we are and to understand the fear of aging. With normal age transitions in sight we do not have to fear what is to come. 

  1. The human life cycle contains many transitions and milestones, which are unique to each individual. You will see later how developmental theories explain our uniqueness. However, there are two points on the lifeline which we all have in common: birth and death, but each of us has a unique life cycle in how we arrive at these two points in life.


Want to see what your life cycle looks like?

Draw a straight line across the middle of a piece of paper . Label your birth date on the far left and project a death date on the far right . Put today’s date at the appropriate place to the left (or right) of the middle depending on your age and how long you think you will live. 
today's date        5years              10years

Using vertical lines fill in the left side of today's date by noting important life events  along your timeline.   Include things that have happened to you, such as: enter school, leave school, marriage, divorce,  children born or left, grandchildren, retirement, illness, a family move, a birthday party, etc.

Now, on the right side of today's date project yourself into the future. What would you like to have accomplished in five years, in ten years, by the time you are middle aged, by the time you retire? What do you hope to have accomplished by the time you die?

What do you see from this exercise?

Hopefully, you can see from your time line that you will continue to evolve throughout your life span. Just as youth is a time of development, adulthood is also a time of growth. Self-development and spiritual growth continue as we age. Development occurs all along this life line—not just in childhood. If you would like, feel free to post your reaction on the discussion board.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come - Check out this site The Sage-ing Center™: See what one Rabbi is suggesting can happen in  old age.  Http://      Also look here:

Look for the video in the video hand out list under week one located at the Assignment Link. There is also a copy in the LRC you can view for extra credit also on this subject. Look for "Man Alive". Send me (EMAIL ONLY; please don't post it to the board) your thoughts on the video for 3 points. Be sure to relate your assessment to this week's materials.


  1. Theories of Personality Development or What makes you unique
  1.   Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)  Image from The New York Psychoanalytic Institute and Society

 Sigmund FreudFreud is referred to as the father of psychology. He developed the psychoanalytic perspective of psychology and gave us common terms like the unconscious, denial, repression, anal retentive, and defensive mechanisms to describe psychological behaviors. Freud believed that it was unconscious, psychological forces that most profoundly affected our thoughts and behavior. He felt that these emotions originated in the emotions of our early childhood.

According to Freud, human beings are seething cauldrons who must constantly seek to gratify a number of innate sexual and aggressive instincts. You must realize that Freud was deeply influenced by the times. The Victorian era was still very influential and encouraged people to be very prudish, repressed and sexually old fashioned. Some analysis suggests that Freud may have been affected by the sexual repression of this era. 

 Check out this site for a discussion of this era.

 The Victorian Web

He believed that the purpose of socialization was to divert the child’s socially undesirable impulses away from their natural outlets and into socially acceptable patterns of behavior. 

According to Freud, the human personality is composed of three basic elements: the id, the ego and the superego.

The Id contains all the raw primitive, inherited passions and desires and operates on the pleasure principle, which means the id wants these raw passions gratified right now.

The ego is that part of our personality that attempts to serve the id without letting it get out of hand. It is the reality principle—and the mediator between the id's demands for immediate and total gratification and the equally forceful demands of the real world.

The superego represents the standards of our society that we have internalized or taken on as our own. Our conscience.

For example, if the id gets angry and wants to kill someone, the ego develops a scheme for committing the perfect murder.  It is the job of the superego to deter the individual.

Want to learn more?    check out this site. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

According to this theory If one or another of these three elements is relatively weak or strong, distinct personality types might appear.


If the superego is overdeveloped and dominates, one might be shy, inhibited or seldom express either sexual or aggressive impulses.


A powerful id, might be a person who crashes through life trying to gratify his every need immediately, a thoughtless and insensitive menace to himself and society.


Freud believed that most of the activity of the three personality elements was unconscious and that many of our behaviors are motivated by impulses beyond our awareness. Modern day psychoanalysts might even say that the emotional baggage you carry with you today (and we all have some) is a result of your childhood experiences.

  1. Erikson (1902-1994)- please read the electronic handouts located at the assignment link for this week. It will help you follow this discussion. You will be tested on Erikson :-)

Erik Erikson conceptualized his theory of Psycho/Social Development as eight psychosocial stages from infancy through old age. He saw development as tasks to be accomplished – each task accomplished becomes the building block for the next task. Take a look at the three handouts on Erikson to get an idea of his theory of personality development. 

Erikson was part of the inner circle of Freud in Vienna. He fled from the threat of Nazism and came to the United States in 1933. Erikson extended and modified Freudian Theory by including the influence of society on the developing personality.

Where Freud believed personality was developed because of biological drives, Erikson stressed how society shapes the development of the ego or self. He argued that:

"A Sioux Indian female who lives on the reservation, and is trained to serve her hunter husband, will develop different personality patterns and different skills from a girl growing up in a wealthy family in Vienna, at the turn of the century, as most of Freud’s patients did."

Whereas Freud maintained that early childhood experiences permanently shaped personality, Erikson contended that ego development continues throughout a person's life.

Each of the eight stages involves a "crisis" in personality development – a major issue that is particularly important at that time and will remain an issue to some degree throughout life if not addressed.

The crises emerges according to a maturation timetable and must be satisfactorily resolved for healthy ego development.

For example: The first of Erikson's stages starts in infancy with "trust versus mistrust". This means that during infancy an infant needs to learn that when it is hungry, it gets fed, and when wet or uncomfortable, the caretaker will make it comfortable. From this they learn that the world is an O.K. place. From this trust develops and the virtue of "hope". 

Successful resolution of each of the eight crises requires the balancing of a positive trait and a corresponding negative one. Although the positive quality should predominate, some degree of the negative is needed, too. People need to trust the world and the people in it, but they also need to learn some mistrust to protect themselves from danger.

The successful outcome of each crisis results in the development of a particular "virtue" or strength. In the first crisis, the virtue is hope. 

The next stage, according to Erikson, starts at the toddler stage. A child learns to crawl off of mom's lap and discover the  world. For the first time, the child learns that it is a separate thing from mom. The natural inclination is to go discover what is out there. 

If mom allows this exploration, the child will develop autonomy and the knowledge that it is O.K. to be separate from Mom. However, if Mom scolds or punishes the child for these actions, shame will develop and the virtue of will-power suffers. 

Read Erikson's other seven stages at  this site

Imagine, if you will, what life might be like for an older adult who instead of developing trust and hope developed mistrust and withdrawal, and found shame instead of autonomy, or developed guilt instead of initiative. 

What if you came to old age with role confusion, and felt isolated and rejected (if you don't understand this concept, review the positive and negative traits of Erikson's Theory). How might you respond to the challenges of old age with all this emotional baggage? Can you  see how many older adults might arrive at old age feeling despair instead of integrity and wisdom? 

Remember the concept of the Saging-Centers? These are the same issues Rabi Shalomi is advocating repairing in the Saging Centers. Re-read the link on "Saging" if you do not follow this logic or discuss it with your colleagues at the discussion board. 

  1. CARL JUNG: 1875 - 1961 - Jung felt that after age 40, both men and women, being free of most family responsibilities, could now balance their personalities and form a "union of opposites" by expressing those aspects of themselves that had been suppressed earlier. In order to do this, one needs to pay more attention to the inner self. Jung felt that in order to accomplish this union of opposites, there are two necessary tasks:
  1. Giving up the image of youth and youthful lifestyles and
  2. Acknowledging one's eventual mortality

Since both of these are threatening concepts to contemplate, midlife is seen as stressful. Adults are said to need to express the suppressed aspects of the self which leads to the midlife crisis. Midlife crisis might not be a crisis at all, according to this theory, but actually a developmental transition. 

David Gutmann (1969) pursued Jung's theory of "union of opposites" comparing male subjects across a wide range of cultures and found that men tended to be more passive and self-centered at age 55 then they had been before. Gutmann concluded that this change from active to passive mastery seems to be more age than culture-related. 


  1. Transitions in Adult Life- Developmental psychology

Developmental Psychologists study the physical, mental and social changes thought the life cycle. As children, we all engage in social play in preparation for life’s serious work. As adults we all smile and cry, love and loathe and, occasionally ponder the fact that someday we will die.

Human development is a lifelong process and developmental psychologists research three major issues.

  1. Nature or nurture: How much is human development influenced by our genetic inheritance ( our nature) and how much by our environment and experience (the nurture we receive)?
  2. Continuity or stage (phase) development: Does human development happen gradually in a  continuous process (like riding an escalator), or does it proceed through a sequence of separate stages, such as Erikson suggests, like climbing rungs on a ladder?
  3. Stability or change: Do our early personality traits persist throughout our life, or do we become different persons as we age?

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Until about 20 years ago, human development actually meant child development. A new focus on early, middle and later adulthood is now included by developmental psychologists.

Adult development (the study of personality in middle and later life) is often described in terms of transitions. Points at which a person’s development is moving or transitioning between one phase or stage and the next.

Young Adulthood

The period between 18-25 has been defined by society as a time when we physically separate from our parents, enter college or military and establish our identity and occupational goals. The safety of home left behind, we begin trying on life's uniforms and possible partners in search of the perfect fit. This is a time when we are expected to marry, find a career, and settle down.

Midlife or Middle Age

This is often a time when adults accomplish or conclude certain developmental tasks.

The normative expectations are that most people become more established in their homes and family and establish an economic base.

Those who are married may feel satisfaction or discontent, but those who have not married or settled down may feel a stronger push to do so.

Middle age can be a time of role change. Our grown children are launched out into the world, we may become grandparents, or caretakers of our parents who are likely to be in their old age.

  1. Sandwich Generation: Many middle age adults may be caught in the middle of caring for their own children and their parents needs. This sandwich position can lead to new challenges and the need to garner support and resources to maintain one’s own health and well-being.

The stress of care giving has been associated with many stress related physical illnesses, such as high blood pressure, ulcers, heart disease and insomnia. Did you know that caregivers often die before the person they are care taking? Remember, stress reduces one's immunity. 

B. The midlife Crisis:

Traditionally, midlife has been defined as beginning in our late 30’s and our early 40’s. This point of transition has often been called a crisis because many adults begin to realize that the human life span has its limits and the time to realize life’s goals and dreams is running out.

Many people feel a compelling need to reevaluate the dreams of youth. The focus at this time begins to become more interior as the full meaning of mortality begins to emerge and take shape in our consciousness. This is what Jung was talking about in the need to express the suppressed aspects of one's self.

Some psychologists feel that the "degree of the crisis" depends on the way a person has spent his/her life and the coping skills and resources one has (i.e. how well did they proceed through Erikson's stages).

Cultural norms create psychological and interpersonal pressures on individuals to conform to those behaviors and attitudes. Midlife can be a time when some may ask themselves "what have I really accomplished? Am I clear about what happens after death?"

 Late Life: Late adulthood is still the least studied portion of the life course.


The interest in this area is beginning to evolve with the aging Boomers. Until recently, life expectancy limited the numbers of older adults in society. It wasn't that people previously did not live to be aged 80 or 90, there just were not so many of them. With the increased life expectancy, the numbers of older adults are not only increasing in numbers but also in percentages. This is bring more attention to late life development. 

Today most of us will spend about 1/3 of our entire life span in old age. This 1/3 has been referred to as the third half of life. Today we are given the gift of experiencing (and can reevaluate) our lives from the gift of more time. We can develop careers we never had time to develop, re-establish friendships and family ties, and take time to pursue hobbies and dreams that the demands of raising a family did not permit.


  1. Change and Transition-

We develop not only a sense of personal identity as we progress through life (one advantage to aging) but we also develop a sense of social identity. Who we are as a member of different groups or social categories. These categories have a different meaning depending on our life stage or age, social circumstances, personality and so on. For example, when we are young a group that goes out on the weekends and finds leisure things to do is important to us. As we age and have children, we associate with groups who have small children. Then as we progress through the life course, our priorities change. I bet your priorities are very different today than they were 15 years ago.

The groups with which we identify impact our perspectives and our development, because each group has normative behaviors and expectations. However, many generational differences can be attributed to the Cohort effect. Cohorts are used to try to explain differences between the generations. Are changes due to the generations or to period effects?

For this part of the lecture it would be helpful to skim some of next week's readings.

As you saw from the  "life cycle" outline you did at the beginning of this chapter, we all have a cycle that starts with birth and ends at death. We also develop a concept of what a  "normal" or "expectable" life cycle should be.

bulletThis is a set of anticipations that certain life events will occur at certain times. It is a mental clock telling us where we are and whether we are on time or off time. 
bulletBeing on time or off time is a compelling basis for self-assessment. It is a way of assessing, "How am I doing for my age?"

You marked certain milestones or punctuation marks along your life-cycle line. These lead to changes in self-concept and identity. Many of your milestones were left off of your line because they are not anticipated.

Milestones fall into three different categories 

  1. Normative or age ordered changes
  2. Cohort-specific changes
  3. Non-normative changes

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  1. Normative/age ordered changes  (Milestone one).


bulletNormative Changes are age ordered influences that are normal or universal in that they affect all individuals in a particular culture in a similar way at a similar stage in life.

Examples: getting married, having children, leaving home, or retiring from full-time employment. 

bulletThe influence of age-ordered or age-graded changes can also be strongly influenced by biological and environmental factors. These are strongly related to chronological age. 

For example, biological changes like puberty, menarche, menopause or social changes in the family life (singlehood, married life, parenthood, empty nest, or grandparenthood).

bulletNormative developmental influences serve an important function for adults in guiding expectations and aspirations. We need to anticipate and prepare for major life events and developmental tasks.


Refer to Handout  "Consensus in a Middle-Class Sample Regarding Various Age-Related Characteristics" to follow this discussion. 

In 1965 researchers (Neugarten, Moore, and Lowe) asked four different groups of people about the expected age for various age related characteristics (i.e. puberty, parenthood, grandparenthood etc). They asked three diverse groups:

1. A middle-class, middle-aged sample
2. A group of African American men and women aged 40-60
3. Persons aged 70-80 in a New England community

Essentially, the same patterns of age norms were found for each group of respondents. 

More than 80% of the respondents selected age 19-24 as the best time for a woman to marry and age 20-25  as the best age for a man to marry. This study demonstrated that there was a high degree of consensus about the ages associated with certain age-related behaviors in the U.S. in the 1960's. Look at the other categories on your handout. 

It is even more interesting to note that by 1980 only 40% agreed to these same age norms. This suggests that as life expectance increases, there is a lessening of consensus about age norms. 

bulletLooking back to page 37 Neugarten has suggested that because of longevity we may now be moving towards an age-irrelevant society. Such a society would have less rigid age norms. Many of you experience this by challenging the notion of "normative" age of a college student, or the normative age to bear children. Both of these normative events are experienced at much later ages than in the 1960's.

The transitions associated with normative life events are not usually experienced as very stressful. This is probably because such changes are anticipated and rehearsed considerably before the actual change occurs and because other people have experienced similar transitions and can provide role models, explicit advice and support during the transition.

bulletHowever, a minority of adults find normative life transitions highly stressful and may experience psychological or physical symptoms, such as the high relationship between school entry and anxiety, or retirement and depression. 


  1.  Normative events -Cohort-specific or history graded changes (Milestone 2 -)
bulletNormative cohort-specific changes are biological and environmental events associated with being born and developing at a given historical time. All those living through the historical events will be influenced by those events.  Do you remember what a cohort is?

There is an Arabic proverb which states that : "A man resembles his times more than his father."

The great Depression of the 1930's, major wars, and epidemics are examples of cohort-specific influences that interact with chronological age-ordered influences that determine development. 

The sexual revolution of the 1960's and 70's is an example of a cohort-specific social event. Also the different reactions to war between the World War II veterans and the Viet Nam veterans. Because of different perceptions in the purpose for fighting the wars, the first group's motto was "America, Love It Or Leave It". The second group's motto was "I Love My Country, But I Fear My Government". The attitudes of these generations were shaped by historical events that shaped their emotional development. 

These events serve to give a generation its unique identity. It is these influences that we try to separate from normal aging to determine what normal aging is. For example, do people drive slower as a result of aging, or do older people today drive slower because they learned to drive in Model "A's" and "T's" with a top speed of about 25 miles per hour? 

Refer to your handout, "Cohorts, Money Motto, Sex Mindset and Music" to follow the changing mind sets in cohorts from 1912 to 1976.

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  1. Non-normative changes- Milestone 3
bulletSome changes are unexpected, either because of the nature of the event itself (such as the death of a child or being fired from a job) or because of timing (such as early widowhood). These events are important for a specific individual, but are not experienced by most people. 

These may be favorable events (winning the lottery) or unfavorable ones (an accident or layoff). 

bulletNon-normative events are often very stressful because they are not anticipated are not mentally rehearsed, and often do not provide the support of others who are having the same experience. 

Researchers (Pearlin and Liberman, 1979) surveyed life strains among adults aged 18-59. Some of the most stressful circumstances included being fired, moving into a new job, work overload, loss of a spouse, and illness or death of a child. 

Did you know that excessive stress not only affects your psychological well-being but can decrease your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness? Check your handouts and take the stress test to calculate stress for your life.

Non-normative events or unpredictable life events significantly affect an individual's development. They are not necessarily experienced at the same age or at the same point in time by everyone who experiences them and, therefore, are highly stressful. 

  1. Impact

The relative strength or impact of normative, cohort-specific and non-normative events might have affects during the life span.

Baltes, Reese and Lipsitt, 1980, have suggested that the strength of non-normative influences increases gradually during the adult life span, but Cohort-specific and normative influences are expected to exhibit a "U" shape. 

The "U" shaped pattern is suggested for cohort-specific influences because cohort identification is generally of greatest significance during adolescence and old age. It is also important for adolescence and aging  adults to compare themselves to the rest of the population to see what is "normal". They may actually fear not being normal for their age group.  As one ages non-normative changes become important to judge ones aging process.

Non-Normative Influences

Click above to see this concept graphically

  1. Age Norms- 

The Should's and Ought's Voice

  1. Norms are a set of expectations about behavior that people carry in their heads and use to regulate their own behavior and to respond to others behavior. They are the 'shoulds' and 'oughts' of society. 

Norms are linked to sanctions, which are the pressures brought to bear on an individual who violates the norms or expectations. 

Involved in social norms are the 3 "P"S" 

bulletPermission (what you may do) -i.e. drive at 16 or 18, vote at 18, drink alcohol at 21
bulletProscription (what you must not do)- i.e. marry at age 12 
bulletprescription (what you must do). - i.e. provide shelter for yourself or your family
  1. Norms exert some degree of constraint on our behavior, so that we usually choose to do those things that are expected, and not to do those things that violate social expectations. 

There are informal sanctions (social pressures) as well as legalized sanctions (laws) that may be used to maintain the expected behavior. 

These norms and  sanctions differ among various cultures for men and women and for persons of different ages. Historically, in this country, we have tended to have stereotypes about expected behavior based on age and have responded accordingly, at least to strangers. Consider these situations:

bulletA man quits his job and moves to Florida where he grows vegetables in a small garden and takes life easy. How would you react if he was 19? 35? 55? 75?
bulletA woman is shopping and you notice a box of condoms in her cart.  How would you react if she was 15? 35? 55? 85?
bulletYou are riding on a crowded bus and a person gets up to offer you a seat. Would you react differently if you were 15? 35? 55? 75?  Would the age of the other person  be important?

 Take just a moment to consider these scenarios and your reaction to each. What do you think influenced your thoughts?  Want 2 extra credit points. Post a new thread with the heading Extra Credit and tell us your findings  to each one seperately.

  1. Social Clock 

You might have reacted differently depending on the person's age because age norms are often dictated by our social clock. The interaction of age norms, formal and informal age sanctions, and age related roles produce a phenomenon that Neugarten called the "social clock". 

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  1. This is an internal sense of the best time to reach social milestones. It acts as a "prod" to speed up accomplishments of a task or as a brake to slow our progress through the social events of the lifeline. For example, it dictates the "right" age to bear children. Not too early and not to late in life.
  2. The social clock is internal and serves as a major source of timing in adulthood.  It regulates the sequential progression of an individual through the age-related milestones and events of the adult years. The right time to leave home, start your own life, marry, have children and retire. 
  3. The norms and expectations of society are internalized by taking the attitude of the "generalized others" (society at large) towards oneself. You watch others and compare your own developmental progress with those norms and expectations. 
  4. There is some variation in this timing of major milestones, but most of us have a reasonably similar sense of the "right time" to marry, change jobs, become a parent and so on. 
bulletThere is some evidence that the social clock is set slightly different for persons from different socioeconomic classes, different ethnic and racial backgrounds, and for people who suffered economic deprivation during the depression. There may even be differences for men and women. 
  1. In a study of a representative sample of persons aged 50-70 in a mid-western city, of higher socio-economical classes, it was revealed that they experienced family-related events later than persons from lower socioeconomic classes (the age of finishing school, leaving home, marrying, having a first child, first child leaving home and first grandchild being born). 
  2. Off-time events (those that occur unusually early or unusually late, according to the social clock) are particularly difficult in comparison with on-time events which are likely to be less stressful. 
  3. Early off-time transitions can affect subsequent life changes  and create what is called the "transition domino effect". 
For example: Adolescent parenthood often leads to early marriage and early exit from school, with the result that all three transitions occur off-time. Early parents also are less likely ever to attain a college education, which in turn could limit occupational level. 
  1. Some investigators have examined long-term consequences of transition timing. Studies of age at marriage have shown to be  positively related to marital stability and age at marriage predicts socioeconomic attainment later in life. 
  2. In examining the consequences of deviations from the normal sequence of school exit, work, and marriage, researchers also found that the men who did not follow that order were more likely to have their marriages terminated by divorce.
  3.  As age norms become less compelling, individuals may feel greater freedom to postpone marriage or parenthood, as has been the case in recent years, or to "speed up" the age of retirement, as has also been a contemporary pattern (people in America are retiring earlier than their parents did).
  4. There have been very few studies concerning age norms and transitions in late adulthood. We need more research in this area. There are, however, a few theories to guide our understanding of old age. Your text refers to activity and disengagement theory, and we will study these in the next chapter.

Ashley Montagu(1900) at age 85 offered an anthropological explanation for his long, productive and energetically outspoken career. His secret is in behaving "neotenously". Neoteny is a scientific term for the carrying over of fetal or juvenile physical characteristics into adulthood. To Montagu, neoteny also means carrying over into adulthood the qualities that marked us as children - curiosity and flexibility, openness and friendliness, spontaneity and joyfulness. If we perpetuate these traits into our lives as adults, both our  physical and emotional health will benefit. How "neotanous" or "childlike" are you?

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 You are done with the lecture materials for this weeks part one of chapter three.  Remember to check the Assignment link for your web assignment and read the text. Test questions come from those materials too.

Are you getting familiar with the rhythm of the class yet?


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