This paper aims to explore the validity of principles andtheories through the similarities and differences in the changing challengesfaced by two interviewed midlife adults of the opposite genders in midlifeadulthood. The male interviewed is David Cheong, age 53.
He was trained as a plumber but currently works as a GRAB driver. His marriagewas short-lived and he divorced at the age of 39 with no children. He nowresides in a flat with his elderly mother. The female interviewed is Irene Goi,age 51. She was once an administrator, accountant, childcare teacher and brieflyvolunteered as a counselor. She divorced after 19 years of marriage and currentlylives with her two young adult children. During David’s young adulthood, thechallenges he faced were mainly influenced by the bourgeois perception ofsuccess. He struggled to be financially well off, respected by society, marriedand to feel belonged.
In midlife adulthood however, he faced health relatedissues, due to years of drinking and smoking, influenced by his acquaintancesafter his divorce. Hence, he now struggles to find like-minded people or peoplewho are of good influence to him and longs for healthy or meaningfulrelationships with others. He feels lonely, empty and have difficultiestrusting others. In Irene’s case, challenges facedduring younger adulthood included having to balance work and family life, nurturingand meeting the physical and emotional needs of her children while beingfinancially secure. Moving into midlife adulthood, her health began todeteriorate due to osteoporosis and menopause, resulting in communicationbreakdowns caused by mood swings. She worries about being a burden to herfamily as she is not financially stable, having quit her job years ago.
Despitehaving close friends, she expressed loneliness now having divorced and herchildren “leaving the nest”. Similar challenges faced by thetwo interviewees included the initial need to be financially stable as a formof security. After which, they desired intimacy and a sense of belonging.
Theseneeds presented themselves in different settings, such as ‘children leaving thenest’, or conforming to a particular social group by drinking, but the root causewere consistent. The difference in challenges that surfaced subsequently wasdue to their difference in gender, as each had contrasting priorities and rolesto play in society. These elements of needs were in accordance to Maslow’sHierarchy of needs. (McLeod, 2014) However, it could be observed that not everylower level need have to be met before advancing to the next, as they werestill able to feel accomplished despite not attaining their desired intimaterelationships.
Erikson’s Psychosocial Theoryproposes 8 stages in development of ego. It continues over a lifetime, witheach presenting its own major crisis. Successful completion of each stage by resolvinga major crisis would result in the acquisition of a virtue. Failure in doing socan cause “a reduced ability to complete further stages” and a “more unhealthypersonality and sense of self”.
However, this can be resolvedsuccessfully at a later time. Applying Erikson’s PsychosocialTheory to the challenges faced by the interviewees, both should have successfullycompleted stage 1 to stage 6, having once committed to marriage. Hence, theyshould now be working through stage 7, appropriated for mid adulthood. This theory is supported by theircurrent experiences, namely; their desire of wanting to be a part of the biggerpicture by contributing to society. For instance, David is now starting his ownplumbing business, as he believes that his skill could help many people.
Thisis a change from his borgeios thinking during young adulthood, which focused onstatus. Irene is now convinced that her contribution to society would be toraise her children to play their part in society. Desires that used togravitate more towards personal interest and agenda, shifted to the greatergood. During David’s interview, hedescribed having a secure attachment to his family and friends during infantand adolescent years. However, after being deceived by a series of trustedpeople and his ex-wife in younger adulthood, he began to develop a fearfulavoidant attachment towards others. The principle of operant conditioning throughpositive punishment at schedule of variable ratio is applicable here. David washurt plenty atimes by trusted friends or relatives, often through betrayal.Hence, it is inferred that what one has once resolved in a stage can be undoneor revisited through another major crisis that occurs later in life, resultingin an unhealthy ego.
Despite loneliness andisolation due to the absence of close relationships and having divorced, David plansto contribute to society through the skills he possesed. As for Irene, herchildren were ‘leaving the nest’ and she wanted deeper intimacy since divorcing,but started jobs searching in attempts to be more productive. Hence, they weregenerative, which meant that they had resolve the crisis of stage 7, withoutsuccessfully working out the previous stage of intimacy. Therefore, progress isnot determined or affected by the success or failure of previous stages,contradicting Erikson’s Pychosocial Theory. Lastly, Erikson’s PychosocialTheory does not address the biological difference between genders. Irene, beinga female, experiences hot flushes, giddiness, insomnia and chills, due to meopause,which results in the lack of concentration and the feeling of constantirritation.
Her social activities and way of communicating with others wereaffected, due to mood swings and physical limitations. David’s health issues derivedfrom unhealthy habits, while it was a mandatory process for Irene. Through this analysis, middle adulthood servesas a period for reflection and redefinition on the meaning of life. It caneither further affirm or change one’s purpose in life in consideration to the skillsthat one possesses, and the type of impact one desire to make in society. It isalso a time where identity, values and beliefs can change and furthersolidifies the ego. In relation to Singaporeans who experiencedespair in late adulthood, the Singapore government provides many subsidizedcourses and IntergenerationalLearning Programmes for seniors to pursue their passion and accomplish their unachievedgoals. Also, with opportunities to learn and impartto the younger generation, ego integrity instead of despair would be developedamong seniors.
In conclusion, the stagesmentioned in Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory are relatable to both interviewees. However,the sequence proposed does not apply and the theory does not address the issueregarding the reoccurence of crisis, which may jeopardise the successfulresolution achieved previously. The theory merely provides a broad, generaloverview as it fails to take into consideration gender biological differences,cultural disparities and government policies in the development of the ego.