Introduction to Emotional and Social Development in Middle Adulthood

What you’ll learn to do: analyze emotional and social development in middle adulthood

Two women sitting on different park benches are smiling at each other

Traditionally, middle adulthood  has been regarded as a period of reflection and change. In the popular imagination (and academic press) there has been reference to a “mid-life crisis.” There is an emerging view that this may have been an overstatement—certainly, the evidence on which it is based has been seriously questioned. However, there is some support for the view that people do undertake a sort of emotional audit, reevaluate their priorities, and emerge with a slightly different orientation to emotional regulation and personal interaction in this time period. Why, and the mechanisms through which this change is affected, are a matter of some debate. We will examine the ideas of Erikson, Baltes, and Carstensen, and how they might inform a more nuanced understanding of this vital part of the lifespan.