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It has been relatively recently (the sixties, in fact) before much attention was paid to adult development. Freud assumed that the basis of personality was laid down in early childhood. Piaget thought that we had matured intellectually as much as we were going to by adolescence.
Secondly, adults lives may not be all THAT different. When you think about it, we all go through some of the identical decisions.
For example, if a young person is living at home and attending college at age 18, we consider that perfectly normal. If that same person is living at home, financially dependent on his or her parents and attending college at age 29, we consider that to be socially unacceptable.
Similarly, having a first child at age 15 is supposed
to be too early, but having a first child (particularly for a woman) at
age 48 is perceived as somehow unnatural.
Personality traits are also defined somewhat by the social
clock. It is acceptable for my adolescent daughter to not be sure of
what she wants to do in life, to be somewhat irresponsible and unreliable.
After all, we reason, “She is young.” If my 97-year-old grandmother, on
the other hand, went out every weekend with her friends, staying out until
midnight, and left her clothes lying all around the house, I would be very
upset. This behavior does not fit our age norms for elderly people.
If at 39, I decided I wanted to just stay home and sip
tea all day, watch a little TV and work in my garden growing flowers ,
well, I am pretty certain my family would be convinced something had gone
seriously wrong with me. (Yet, it is okay for my grandmother to live this
Probably the four people who are best known for their research on adult development are Erik Erikson (who was really the first to push for the idea of developmental stages in adulthood), Daniel Levinson, Gail Sheehy and Bernice Neugarten.
The next page briefly discusses Levinson’s work on adult development. Half of this (his research on women) is not included in your textbook because the research was published after this textbook was already in press. Incidentally, the next page assumes that you have read pages 394-404 on periods in adult development. If you haven’t, I recommend that you go back and do that now.
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