Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Middle Adulthood (40–60)

How does the view of the self change in middle adulthood?

In midlife, the sense of self is much more defined than it was in earlier periods. A good deal of life has already been lived, and the unfolding of that life has cemented the adult’s sense of who they are, where they have been, and where they are likely to go. Because of this, middle-aged adults are likely to have a greater sense of self assurance than are adolescents and younger adults. To the extent the adult has had experiences of success, of mastering challenges, and accomplishing goals, there are gains in self-confidence.

In midlife, one also has to confront one’s own limitations. The dreams of youth must be reconciled with the reality of life as lived. To the extent that the discrepancies between ideals and reality can be accepted, there is greater self-acceptance and more stable self-esteem. There can be a sense of liberty from the tyranny of youthful expectations. However, for those who cannot accept that life does not always turn out the way we want, there can be considerable depression along with a great sense of anger, frustration, and shame.


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