This age 51. She was once an administrator,

This paper aims to explore the validity of principles and
theories through the similarities and differences in the changing challenges
faced by two interviewed midlife adults of the opposite genders in midlife


The male interviewed is David Cheong, age 53.

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He was trained as a plumber but currently works as a GRAB driver. His marriage
was short-lived and he divorced at the age of 39 with no children. He now
resides in a flat with his elderly mother. The female interviewed is Irene Goi,
age 51. She was once an administrator, accountant, childcare teacher and briefly
volunteered as a counselor. She divorced after 19 years of marriage and currently
lives with her two young adult children.


During David’s young adulthood, the
challenges he faced were mainly influenced by the bourgeois perception of
success. He struggled to be financially well off, respected by society, married
and to feel belonged. In midlife adulthood however, he faced health related
issues, due to years of drinking and smoking, influenced by his acquaintances
after his divorce. Hence, he now struggles to find like-minded people or people
who are of good influence to him and longs for healthy or meaningful
relationships with others. He feels lonely, empty and have difficulties
trusting others.


In Irene’s case, challenges faced
during younger adulthood included having to balance work and family life, nurturing
and meeting the physical and emotional needs of her children while being
financially secure. Moving into midlife adulthood, her health began to
deteriorate due to osteoporosis and menopause, resulting in communication
breakdowns caused by mood swings. She worries about being a burden to her
family as she is not financially stable, having quit her job years ago. Despite
having close friends, she expressed loneliness now having divorced and her
children “leaving the nest”.


Similar challenges faced by the
two interviewees included the initial need to be financially stable as a form
of security. After which, they desired intimacy and a sense of belonging. These
needs presented themselves in different settings, such as ‘children leaving the
nest’, or conforming to a particular social group by drinking, but the root cause
were consistent. The difference in challenges that surfaced subsequently was
due to their difference in gender, as each had contrasting priorities and roles
to play in society. These elements of needs were in accordance to Maslow’s
Hierarchy of needs. (McLeod, 2014) However, it could be observed that not every
lower level need have to be met before advancing to the next, as they were
still able to feel accomplished despite not attaining their desired intimate


Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory
proposes 8 stages in development of ego. It continues over a lifetime, with
each presenting its own major crisis. Successful completion of each stage by resolving
a major crisis would result in the acquisition of a virtue. Failure in doing so
can cause “a reduced ability to complete further stages” and a “more unhealthy
personality and sense of self”.  However, this can be resolved
successfully at a later time.


Applying Erikson’s Psychosocial
Theory to the challenges faced by the interviewees, both should have successfully
completed stage 1 to stage 6, having once committed to marriage. Hence, they
should now be working through stage 7, appropriated for mid adulthood.


This theory is supported by their
current experiences, namely; their desire of wanting to be a part of the bigger
picture by contributing to society. For instance, David is now starting his own
plumbing business, as he believes that his skill could help many people. This
is a change from his borgeios thinking during young adulthood, which focused on
status. Irene is now convinced that her contribution to society would be to
raise her children to play their part in society. Desires that used to
gravitate more towards personal interest and agenda, shifted to the greater


During David’s interview, he
described having a secure attachment to his family and friends during infant
and adolescent years. However, after being deceived by a series of trusted
people and his ex-wife in younger adulthood, he began to develop a fearful
avoidant attachment towards others. The principle of operant conditioning through
positive punishment at schedule of variable ratio is applicable here. David was
hurt 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 undone
or revisited through another major crisis that occurs later in life, resulting
in an unhealthy ego.


Despite loneliness and
isolation due to the absence of close relationships and having divorced, David plans
to contribute to society through the skills he possesed. As for Irene, her
children were ‘leaving the nest’ and she wanted deeper intimacy since divorcing,
but started jobs searching in attempts to be more productive. Hence, they were
generative, which meant that they had resolve the crisis of stage 7, without
successfully working out the previous stage of intimacy. Therefore, progress is
not determined or affected by the success or failure of previous stages,
contradicting Erikson’s Pychosocial Theory.


Lastly, Erikson’s Pychosocial
Theory does not address the biological difference between genders. Irene, being
a female, experiences hot flushes, giddiness, insomnia and chills, due to meopause,
which results in the lack of concentration and the feeling of constant
irritation. Her social activities and way of communicating with others were
affected, due to mood swings and physical limitations. David’s health issues derived
from unhealthy habits, while it was a mandatory process for Irene.


Through this analysis, middle adulthood serves
as a period for reflection and redefinition on the meaning of life. It can
either further affirm or change one’s purpose in life in consideration to the skills
that one possesses, and the type of impact one desire to make in society. It is
also a time where identity, values and beliefs can change and further
solidifies the ego.


In relation to Singaporeans who experience
despair in late adulthood, the Singapore government provides many subsidized
courses and Intergenerational
Learning Programmes for seniors to pursue their passion and accomplish their unachieved
goals. Also, with opportunities to learn and impart
to the younger generation, ego integrity instead of despair would be developed
among seniors.


In conclusion, the stages
mentioned in Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory are relatable to both interviewees. However,
the sequence proposed does not apply and the theory does not address the issue
regarding the reoccurence of crisis, which may jeopardise the successful
resolution achieved previously. The theory merely provides a broad, general
overview as it fails to take into consideration gender biological differences,
cultural disparities and government policies in the development of the ego.






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