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.
Stop and think about that a minute- your personality and intellectual ability not progressing past whatever it was when you were 15.

If you were anything like I was at 15, that’s  a pretty sad thought.


Actually, if you think about it, children’s lives are not all THAT similar to one another. First of all, a child may live with both biological parents, stepparents, a single parent, foster parents, grandparents - to name the most common possibilities. They may all go to school but their experiences certainly differ. To give one example, my oldest daughter is a sophomore at a private school. In her English class this year, they will complete ten books. including Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, Jane Eyre, two of Shakespeare’s plays, a grammar workbook,  and an English textbook.The sophomore guidance counselor has already met with each student twice to discuss their grades and college plans; 95% of the students in her class will graduate and 99% of them will go on to college. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is just a few miles away, due to a severe textbook shortage, many students have gone the entire first quarter without a single book, much less ten for just one class. Perhaps 50% of these students will go on to college.

Secondly, adults lives may not be all THAT different. When you think about it, we all go through some of the identical decisions.

Further, there is the idea of a social clock which sets when it is age appropriate for certain life events to take place (your text defines a life event as a turning point when individuals change direction in the course of their lives). After a certain point in time, we begin to feel that the ‘time is running out on us’.

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 way.) 


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.

Go to Levinson's research on adult male development
Go back to the previous page on adolescence
Go to home page
Email me questions, comments about how great the course is, etc.