LEARNING OBJECTIVES

• What are personal concerns?

• What are the main elements of Jung’s theory?

• What are the stages in Erikson’s theory? What types of clarifications and extensions of it have been offered? What research evidence is there to support his stages?

• What are the stages in Loevinger’s theory? What evidence is there to support her stages?

• What are the main points and problems with theories based on life transitions?

• How is midlife best described?

• What can we conclude about personal concerns?

A

ndy showed all the signs. He divorced his wife of nearly 20 years to enter into a relationship with a woman 15 years younger, sold his ordinary-looking mid-size sedan for a red sports car, and began working out regularly at the health club after years of being a couch potato. Andy claims he hasn’t felt this good in years; he is happy to be making this change in middle age. All of Andy’s friends agree: This is a clear case of midlife crisis. Or is it?

Many people believe strongly that middle age brings with it a normative crisis called the midlife crisis. There would appear to be lots of evidence to support this view, based on case studies like Andy’s. But is everything as it seems? We’ll find out in this section. First we consider the evidence that people’s priorities and personal concerns change throughout adulthood, requiring adults to reassess themselves from time to time. This alternative position to the five-factor model discussed earlier claims that change is the rule during adulthood.

What does it mean to know another person well? McAdams (1999) believes that to know another

326 CHAPTER 9

Getting to know a person crosses generations.

person well takes more than just knowing where he or she falls on the dimensions of dispositional traits. Rather, it also means knowing what issues are important to a person, what the person wants, how the person goes about getting what he or she wants, what the person’s plans for the future are, how the person interacts with others who provide key per­sonal relationships, and so forth. In short, we need to know something about a person’s personal con­cerns. Personal concerns reflect what people want during particular times of their lives and within specific domains; they are the strategies, plans, and defenses people use to get what they want and to avoid getting what they don’t want.