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Interactive Lecture 9.5

Adulthood

Does personality change during adulthood? Reaching developmental milestones in adulthood is much less predictable than in earlier years, much more a function of the individual's decisions, circumstances, and even luck. Still, there are certain experiences and changes that take place sooner or later in nearly everyone's life and certain needs that nearly every adult tries to fulfill.

What factors are important in forming satisfying relationships in adulthood? Almost every adult forms a long-term loving partnership with at least one other adult at some point in life. According to Erik Erikson, the task of finding intimacy versus being isolated and lonely is especially important during young adulthood. Erikson believed that people are not ready for love until they have formed a firm sense of identity.

Figure 9.3

What are the satisfactions and stresses of adult work? The vast majority of adults are moderately or highly satisfied with their jobs and would continue to work even if they didn't need to for financial reasons. Balancing the demands of job and family is often difficult, however, especially for women, because they tend to have most of the responsibility for housework and child care. Yet despite this stress of a 'double shift,' a job outside the home is a positive, self-esteem-boosting factor in most women's lives.

Figure 9.4

In what ways do adults think differently than adolescents? An adult's thinking is more flexible and practical than an adolescent's. Whereas adolescents search for the one "correct" solution to a problem, adults realize that there may be several "right" solutions or none at all. Adults also place less faith in authorities than adolescents do.

What changes in personality occur as adults move into midlife? Certain broad patterns of personality change occur in adulthood. As people grow older, they tend to become less self-centered and more comfortable in interpersonal relationships. They also develop better coping skills and new ways of adapting. By middle age many adults feel an increasing commitment to, and responsibility for, others. This suggests that many adults are successfully meeting what Erik Erikson saw as the major challenge of middle adulthood: generativity (the ability to continue being productive and creative, especially in ways that guide and encourage future generations) versus stagnation (a sense of boredom or lack of fulfillment, sometimes called a midlife crisis). Most adults, however, do not experience dramatic upheaval in their middle years, and this period may be better thought of as one of midlife transition.

What is menopause, and what changes accompany it? Middle adulthood brings a decline in the functioning of the reproductive organs. In women this is marked by menopause, the cessation of menstruation, accompanied by a sharp drop in estrogen levels. Although estrogen-replacement therapy can alleviate some negative symptoms (such as thinning bones and “hot flashes”), it is associated with cancer and heart risks; thus women should seek medical advice and supervision. Men experience a slower decline in testosterone levels.

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