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Middle Adulthood
It is a time of expanding personal and social involvement and responsibility; of assisting the next generation in
becoming competent, mature individuals; and of reaching and maintaining satisfaction in ones career.

Physical Changes

At some point in the forties, decline in physical development usually indicates that middle adulthood has arrived.
Seeing and hearing decline, and individuals actually become shorter.
Health status becomes a major concern in middle adulthood. Some deterioration is to be expected. The main
health nemeses of middle adulthood are cardiovascular disease, cancer, and weight. How individuals deal with
physical decline varies greatly from one individual to the next.

J ob Satisfaction

Work satisfaction increases steadily throughout the life from age 20 to at least age 60, for both college-educated
and non-college-educated adults. Satisfaction probably increases because as we get older we get paid more, we
are in higher positions, and we have more job security.

Empty Nest Syndrome

This states that marital satisfaction will decrease when children leave home after adolescence because parents
derive considerable pleasure from their children. The empty nest syndrome may hold true for some parents who
live vicariously through their children, but marital satisfaction usually increases during the post-childbearing years.

Midlife Crisis

A midlife crisis is a time of doubt and anxiety in middle adulthood. While it is not regarded as a universal
phenomenon, during one's 40s and 50s comes the recognition that more than half of one's life is gone. That
recognition may prompt some to feel that the clock is ticking and that they must make sudden, drastic changes in
order to achieve their goals, while others focus on finding satisfaction with the present course of their lives.


Menopause is the gradual, permanent cessation of menstruation and usually begins between ages forty-five and
fifty-five. Though many women suffer uncomfortable physical symptoms during menopause, such as hot flashes,
emotional reactions to menopause are far from universal: many women have strong emotional reactions, while
just as many others may not. Though men dont experience menopause, they do experience a gradual decline in
testosterone production and sperm count as they age.

VIII. Late Adulthood

It is a time of adjustment to decreasing strength and health, life review, retirement, and adjustment to social roles.

The Young Old, the Old Old, and the Oldest Old

Developmentalists are increasingly differentiating the late adult period. Distinctions include the young old or old
age (65 to 74 years), the old old or late old age (75 years and older), and the oldest old (85 years and older). The
needs, capacities, and resources of the oldest old are often different from those of their young old counterparts.


Ageism may be defined as the prejudice or discrimination that occurs on the basis of age. Although it can be used
against people of all ages, older people are most frequently its target and it may often result in forced retirement.
Stereotyping of the elderly is also an aspect of ageism, as seen in such a statement as He drives like a little old

Physical changes

People typically reach the peak of their physical strength and endurance during their twenties and then gradually
decline. In later adulthood, a variety of physiological changes may occur, including some degree of atrophy of the
brain and a decrease in the rate of neural processes. The respiratory and circulatory systems are less efficient, and
changes in the gastrointestinal tract may lead to increased constipation. Bone mass diminishes, especially among
women, leading to bone density disorders such as osteoporosis. Muscles become weaker unless exercise programs
are followed. The skin dries and becomes less flexible. Hair loss occurs in both sexes. There is also decreased
sensitivity in all of the sensory modalities, including olfaction, taste, touch, hearing, and vision.

Cognitive Changes

The study of cognitive changes in the older population is complex. Response speeds (neural and motor) have been
reported to decline; some researchers believe that agerelated decrease in working memory is the crucial factor
underlying poorer performance by the elderly on cognitive tasks.
Intellectual changes in late adulthood do not always result in reduction of ability. While fluid intelligence (the
ability to see and to use patterns and relationships to solve problems) does decline in later years, crystallized
intelligence (the ability to use accumulated information to solve problems and make decisions) has been shown to
rise slightly over the entire life span.


Retirement at age 65 is the conventional choice for many people, although some work until much later. People
have been found to be happier in retirement if they are not forced to retire before they are ready and if they have
enough income to maintain an adequate living standard.
Health Problems

As we age, the probability that we will have some disease or illness increases. Chronic disorders rarely develop in
early adulthood, increase in middle adulthood, and become common in late adulthood.
Arthritis an inflammation of the joints accompanied by pain, stiffness, and movement problems.
Osteoporosis an aging disorder involving an extensive loss of bone tissue. Osteoporosis is the main reason many
older adults walk with a marked stoop. Women are especially vulnerable to osteoporosis, the leading cause of
broken bones in women.
Alzheimers disease a progressive, irreversible brain disorder characterized by gradual deterioration of memory,
reasoning, language, and eventually physical function.
In addition to hospital and home, a third context for dying that has received increased attention in recent years is
the hospice a humanized institution committed to making the end of life as free from pain, anxiety, and
depression as possible. The hospices goals contrast with those of a hospital, which are to cure illness and prolong

Brain Death

Brain death is a neurological definition of death, which states that a person is brain dead when all electrical activity
of the brain has ceased for a specified period of time. A flat EEG (electroencephalogram) recording for a specified
period of time is one criterion of brain death.


Sometimes called mercy killing, euthanasia is the act of painlessly putting to death persons who are suffering
from incurable diseases or severe disabilities.
Active Euthanasia death is induced by a deliberate attempt to end a persons life, as by injecting a lethal dose of
a drug.
Passive Euthanasia available treatments, such as life-sustaining therapeutic devices, are withheld, allowing a
person to die.


Women tend to marry men older than they are and, on average, live 5 to 7 years longer than men. One study
found ten times as many widows as widowers. Widowhood is particularly stressful if the death of the spouse
occurs early in life; close support of friends, particularly other widows, can be very helpful.

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Urie Bronfenbrenner was born on April 29, 1917 in Moscow, Russia, as the son of Dr. Alexander Bronfenbrenner
and Eugenie Kamenetski Bronfenbrenner. When Urie was 6, his family moved to the United States. After a brief
stay in Pittsburgh, they settled in Letchworth Village, the home of the New York State Institution for the Mentally
Retarded, where his father worked as a clinical pathologist and research director.
After his graduation from Haverstraw High School, Bronfenbrenner attended Cornell University, where he
completed a double major in psychology and music in 1938. He went on to graduate work in developmental
psychology, completing an M.A. at Harvard University, followed by a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1942.
Twenty-four hours after receiving his doctorate he was inducted into the Army, where he served as a psychologist
in a variety of assignments for the Army Air Corps and the Office of Strategic Services. After completing officer
training he served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
Immediately after World War II, Bronfenbrenner worked briefly as Assistant Chief Clinical Psychologist for
Administration and Research for the Veterans' Administration, before beginning his work as Assistant Professor in
Psychology at the University of Michigan. In 1948, he accepted a professorship in Human Development, Family
Studies, and Psychology at Cornell University. In the late 1960s to early 1970s, Bronfenbrenner served as a faculty-
elected member of Cornell's Board of Trustees.
At the time of his death, Bronfenbrenner was the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Human
Development and of Psychology in the Cornell University College of Human Ecology. Bronfenbrenner died at his
home in Ithaca, New York, on September 25, 2005, due to complications from diabetes. He was 88.
Contributions to Psychology
Microsystem: Refers to the institutions and groups that most immediately and directly impact the child's
development including: family, school, religious institutions, neighborhood, and peers.
Mesosystem: Refers to relations between microsystems or connections between contexts. Examples are the
relation of family experiences to school experiences, school experiences to church experiences, and family
experiences to peer experiences. For example, children whose parents have rejected them may have difficulty
developing positive relations with teachers.
Exosystem: Involves links between a social setting in which the individual does not have an active role and the
individual's immediate context. For example, a parent's or child's experience at home may be influenced by the
other parent's experiences at work. The parent might receive a promotion that requires more travel, which might
increase conflict with the other parent and change patterns of interaction with the child.
Macrosystem: Describes the culture in which individuals live. Cultural contexts include developing and
industrialized countries, socioeconomic status, poverty, and ethnicity. A child, his or her parent, his or her school,
and his or her parent's workplace are all part of a large cultural context. Members of a cultural group share a
common identity, heritage, and values. The macrosystem evolves over time, because each successive generation
may change the macrosystem, leading to their development in a unique macrosystem.
Chronosystem: The patterning of environmental events and transitions over the life course, as well as
sociohistorical circumstances. For example, divorces are one transition. Researchers have found that the negative
effects of divorce on children often peak in the first year after the divorce. By two years after the divorce, family
interaction is less chaotic and more stable. An example of sociohistorical circumstances is the increase in
opportunities for women to pursue a career during the last thirty years.

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John Bowlby was born on February 27, 1907 in London to an upper-middle class family. Believing that too much
parental affection and attention would spoil a child, his parents spent only a small amount of time with him each
day. At the age of seven he was sent toboarding school, which he would later describe as a traumatic experience.
Bowlby went on to attend Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied psychology and spent time working with
delinquent children. He then studied medicine at University College Hospital, and then psychiatry at Maudsley
After becoming a psychoanalyst in 1937, he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War II. In 1938,
he married a woman named Ursula Longstaff and together they had four children. Once the war was over, Bowlby
became Director of the Tavistock Clinic and in 1950 he became a mental health consultant to theWorld Health
Bowlbys Career:
Bowlbys early work with children led him to develop a strong interest in the subject of child development. He
became particularly interested in how separation from caregivers impacted children. After studying the subject for
some time, he began to develop his ideas on the importance of attachment on child development.
In 1949, the World Health Organization commissioned Bowlby to write a report on the mental health of homeless
children in Europe. In 1951, the resulting work Maternal Care and Mental Health was published in which he wrote
the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother (or
permanent mother substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment.
After the publication of the influential report, Bowlby continued to develop his attachment theory. Drawing on a
variety of subjects including cognitive science, developmental psychology and evolutionary biology, he created his
theory which suggested that the earliest bonds formed by children with their caregivers have a tremendous impact
that continues throughout life. According to Bowlby, attachment also serves to keep the infant close to the
mother, thus improving the child's chances of survival.
The central theme of attachment theory is that mothers who are available and responsive to their infant's needs
establish a sense of security. The infant knows that the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for
the child to then explore the world.
Contributions to Psychology
Attachment theory describes the dynamics of long-term relationships between humans. Its most important tenet
is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional
development to occur normally. Attachment theory explains how much the parents' relationship with the child
influences development. Attachment theory is an interdisciplinary study encompassing the fields of psychological,
evolutionary, and ethological theory. Immediately after World War II, homeless and orphaned children presented
many difficulties, and psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby was asked by the UN to write a pamphlet on the
issue which he entitled maternal deprivation. Attachment theory grew out of his subsequent work on the issues
Infants become attached to individuals who are sensitive and responsive in social interactions with them, and who
remain as consistent caregivers for some months during the period from about six months to two years of age; this
is known as sensitive responsiveness. When the infant begins to crawl and walk they begin to use attachment
figures (familiar people) as a secure base to explore from and return to. Caregivers' responses lead to the
development of patterns of attachment; these, in turn, lead to internal working models which will guide the
individual's perceptions, emotions, thoughts and expectations in later relationships. Separation anxiety or grief
following the loss of an attachment figure is considered to be a normal and adaptive response for an attached
infant. These behaviors may have evolved because they increase the probability of survival of the child.