Although middle adulthood did not emerge as an individual developmental stage until the mid-twentieth century (Willis, Martin, & Rocke, 2010, p. 131), it is considered one of the most significant periods in the developmental life cycle, because it builds the basis for the later years of life (Wills et al., 2010, p. 131). This paper aims to analyze the case study by examining the biological, psychological, and psychosocial functioning of the subject, Anna, and to explore the implications of her current developmental stage in her life.
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Completion of Physical Development Tasks
There are no distinct physical development tasks applicable to the midlife period. Considering Anna’s overall performance, she does not show any signs of difficulties with physical tasks; she is capable of moving around the town, driving, and exercising, which are the main activities at this stage of life. In general, there are no concerns with regards to Anna’s physical development.
Significant Illness or Disease
Despite her parents having a worrying history of diabetes and arthritis, which can be inherited, Anna does not have any significant illness or disease that would affect her wellbeing and physical performance. She lives a relatively healthy life and does not have any serious concerns regarding her physical or mental health.
Nutrition and Exercise Issues
Living a healthy lifestyle is crucial for the midlife and later life development, as Muhlig-Versen, Bowen, and Staudinger (2012) note: “evidence has been presented that physical fitness interventions can stimulate positive cognitive development in later adulthood and old age” (p. 855). Overall, Anna has no nutrition or exercise issues that would affect her wellbeing. She lives an active, healthy life, which is a major factor for correct later life development.
Cognitive development during the midlife period is concentrated mainly on the factors that promote a person’s flexibility and adaptability to the changes in life or difficult situations. For instance, low cognitive resources are linked to a higher risk of dementia in later life (Wills et al., 2010, p. 132). High cognitive resources, on the other hand, are related to fewer negative events in midlife and the easiness of coping with changing conditions (Wills et al., 2010, p. 133). Anna’s successful coping with divorce thus indicates a high level of cognitive resources. Moreover, working for a newspaper also requires various cognitive abilities, such as good memory, quick thought process, and good decision-making, which are also the desirable cognitive traits in midlife development (Muhlig-Versen et al., 2012, p. 855).
Research suggests that cultural development comes to a halt in middle adulthood (Wrzus, Hanel, Wagner, & Neyer, 2013, p. 70). However, as Wills et al. (2010) argue, “Early midlife may be the peak time to reap the cultural assets of education, career, relationships, and family” (p. 133). For Anna, too, middle adulthood is the period of stability. She lives away from her parents and has the freedom to live her life at the pace she chooses. Anna’s relationship with friends and family is relatively stable: she has close ties with her parents and meets her friends regularly. Finally, a degree in English enabled her to form a stable career with no significant risks of becoming unemployed mentioned. Generally, Anna’s cultural development conforms to the norms for her age period.
Anna is portrayed as emotionally stable. She is capable of coping with stressful situations healthily, as shown by her experience of divorce. This is critical at her developmental stage, as Wruzs et al. (2013) claim: “throughout the rest of adult life, when remaining life time is perceived as increasingly limited, emotion regulation goals become increasingly important” (p. 54). This is why middle adulthood becomes the age of new beginnings for many people, especially with regards to romantic relationships (Wruzs et al., 2013, p. 54). Anna’s example here, too, complies with the prescribed emotional developmental scheme for middle adulthood: following her divorce, she has now recovered emotionally and is ready to make new romantic attachments.
Self-Concept, Self-Esteem, and Empowerment
One of the results of healthy development in early adulthood is the stability of self-concept and self-esteem in midlife. However, in some cases, middle adulthood also becomes the time of decline in independence: for instance, if the parents of a midlife adult are sick and require constant attention, so the adult decides to move back in with them. Individual empowerment, however, has been efficient in raising independence and self-determination (Muhlig-Versen et al., 2012, p. 863). The case study shows that Anna has a normal self-esteem and empowerment level for her age, as she refuses to move in with her parents and values her freedom.
Significant Life Issues/Events and Diversity Issues
The main life event described in the case study is Anna’s divorce. She admits that it had a profound effect on her; however, she managed to overcome the struggle, showing a strong post-divorce dynamics, which is characteristic for the middle adulthood development in women (Muhlig-Versen et al., 2012, p. 856). No significant diversity issues were indicated in the case study.
Anna’s family environment has been quite tense in recent years. Her parents have gotten involved in her personal life, as they do not approve of her new romantic interest due to his race and religion. Researchers agree that in most cases, the family environment becomes more important for people as they reach middle adulthood, and the value of close relatives’ opinion rises during this time (Wruzs et al., 2013, p. 54), so it is not surprising that Anna’s relationship with her parents affects her emotionally by raising the level of stress in her life.
The case study does not describe Anna’s belonging to different social institutions in detail: for instance, it is unclear whether or not the environment at her workplace is pleasant. However, some examples of the influence of social institutions on her life are evident. Greve and Staudinger (2015) describe how the number of social institutions the person is part of peaks during early adulthood and declines in the later years (p. 806). Due to the reduction in the number of social institutions available, the number of social interactions drops, which is why romantic interests in middle adulthood usually begin at work, just as Anna’s relationship with Robert did.
Research suggests that the spirituality of women rises during their transition from earlier adulthood into midlife (Wink & Dillon, 2002, 92). Anna, on the other hand, does not seem to conform to this trend: she started to question her religious beliefs after the divorce. For instance, she thinks that it could be a good idea for her to move in with Robert before they get married, which is against the strict Catholic doctrine.
Community and Social Network
It is evident from the research that the number of acquaintances and friendships declines with age (Wruzs et al., 2013, p. 54). The case study shows a similar situation in Anna’s life: she has managed to maintain a tight circle of close friends, with whom she meets regularly, however, there is no mention of her active social life beyond that.
Discrimination/Oppression and Economic Factors
Being a member of the Latino population, Anna was highly likely to experience some sort of discrimination or inequality at some point in her life, even though this was not mentioned directly in the case study: “Discrimination has been shown to be a chronic life stressor that is associated with negative mental health outcomes for Latinos in the U.S.” (Torres, O’Conor, Mejia, Camacho, & Long, 2011, p. 363). Even though there is no indication of the impact of discrimination on Anna’s mental health, it is likely that the inequality has affected her economically (through the apparent pay gap between Latinos and white Americans) and socially (by elevating chronic stress levels).
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Despite the preconceptions that people become less flexible with age, research shows that resilience remains a feature of many midlife adults: as Greve and Staudinger (2015) argue, “individuals can return to a normal, or their initial, level of functioning following developmental setbacks or crises, either with or without external support” (p. 797). This is true for Anna: from the case study, we see that she was successful in adjusting to the changes in her life following the crisis of a divorce.
Saint Leo University emphasizes the importance of the development of a person’s mind, body, and spirit. Anna’s case shows evidence of development in all three of those areas: she exercises regularly, aiming to maintain her wellbeing, she has healthy strategies for dealing with stressful events and maintains healthy relationships with her family and friends, and she questions the validity and applicability of her religious beliefs, which shows the development of her spirit. Overall, Anna’s story shows a good pattern of middle adulthood development, which is why Saint Leo University’s Value of Development applies to her case.
Greve, W., & Staudinger, U. M. (2015). Resilience in later adulthood and old age: Resources and potentials for successful aging. In D. Cicchetti & D. J. Cohen (eds.), Developmental psychopathology (pp. 796-840). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Web.
Muhlig-Versen, A., Bowen, C. E., & Staudinger, U. M. (2012). Personality plasticity in later adulthood: Contextual and personal resources are needed to increase openness to new experiences. Psychology and Aging, 27(4): 855-866. Web.
Torres, H. L., O’Conor, A., Mejia, C., Camacho, Y., & Long, A. (2011). The American dream: Racism towards Latino/as in the U.S. and the experience of trauma symptoms. Revista Interamericana de Psicología/Interamerican Journal of Psychology, 45(3): 363-368.
Willis, S. L., Martin, M., & Rocke, C. (2010). Longitudinal perspectives on midlife development: stability and change. European Journal of Ageing, 7(3): 131-134. Web.
Wink, P., & Dillon, M. (2002). Spiritual development across the adult life course: Findings from a longitudinal study. Journal of Adult Development, 9(1): 79-94. Web.
Wrzus, C., Hanel, M., Wagner, J., & Neyer, F. J. (2013). Social network changes and life events across the life span: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1): 53–80. Web.