Developmental psychologist Robert Havighurst Case

Developmental psychologist Robert Havighurst Case

Developmental psychologist Robert Havighurst Case

Q 1

Developmental psychologist Robert Havighurst stated that the developmental tasks for middle-aged adults are threefold: 1) managing a household, 2) child rearing, and 3) managing a career. Drawing on principles you have learned in this course, speculate on how you will accomplish these tasks. [300 Required Words, 3 References, 3 In text Citations, Original Writing Only] Developmental psychologist Robert Havighurst Case



  • attachment


Invitation to the Life Span

Read chapters 13 and 14.


Describe psychosocial changes in adulthood.

Describe and analyze personality theories that apply to adulthood.

Analyze the physical and cognitive changes that occur during late adulthood.

Adulthood and Late Adulthood


The last module began an examination of adulthood. This module will finish the study of adulthood and begin a look at late adulthood.


Psychosocial Development in Adulthood

Erikson’s seventh stage of generativity vs. stagnation occurs during this stage. Being generative means truly caring about the next generation (e.g., being a parent, teacher, coach, or conservationist) (Boeree, 2006b). The idea of a mid-life crisis has been a popular notion since the 1970s (see Berger’s description of Levinson’s research on page 459), but very little evidence for it exists. Modern personality theorists have backed off the word crisis, which implies a do-or-die decision point, and instead have started using terms like marker events, turning points, or passages (Sheehy, 1976).

Abraham Maslow created another prominent theory of personality development (examine his five stages of the hierarchy of needs in Berger, 2010, Figure 13.1, p. 457). The lowest level, physiological needs, must be satisfied first, followed by the others in ascending order. Because people spend so much time satisfying the four lowest needs, very few reach the highest stage of self-actualization, where people live up to their potential; at one point, Maslow estimated the percentage of self-actualizers to be around 2% (Boeree, 2006a). Numerous longitudinal studies have shown evidence of considerable stability and continuity in personality across the adult years (see Berger’s discussion of Costa and McCrae’s research).

Robert Havighurst (cited in Newman & Newman, 2010) states that adults in their 20s and 30s must face four developmental tasks. Tasks 1 and 2, marriage and childbearing, are affected by societal expectations (called the social clock). The probability of divorce hits its peak 2 to 4 years after marriage. Qualities for a successful marriage include similarity in personal characteristics, trust, sensitivity, and adjustment (including a mutually satisfying sexual relationship, economic factors, sleep patterns, food patterns, and toilet habits) (Kimmel, cited in Newman & Newman, 2010). Task 3 involves work, and includes four components: having technical skills, handling authority relationships, coping with unique demands of the job, and establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships. Task 4 involves establishing a lifestyle that is compatible for both spouses (as well as dealing with constraints placed on the marriage by the children) (Newman & Newman, 2010).

For adults in their 40s and 50s, Havighurst (cited in Newman and Newman, 2010) discusses three crucial developmental tasks. Task 1 involves managing a household, including the following sub-tasks: 1) decision-making (about finances, shelter, education, daily activities, vacations and recreations, social life, and child-rearing activities), 2) future planning (including short-term, intermediate, and long-range goals), 3) assessing needs and abilities of household members, 4) assigning responsibilities (single-parent power, both parents’ power, or group power), 5) organizing time, and 6) establishing relationships with other organized social structures (e.g., community, religious, and political groups). Task 2 examines the different stages of child-rearing: 1) pre-parental (whether or not to have children), 2) childbearing and postnatal years (both adults are tense and exhausted, but they must convey love and trust to the infant), 3) years in which children are toddlers (parents must learn self-control, as children assert their rudimentary authority), 4) years in which children are in elementary and middle school (parents act as chauffeurs, secretaries, and buffers between their children and the outside world; parents may join PTA), 5) years in which the children are in high school (in these very trying years, parents must give support as well as freedom), 6) years in which the children have just left home (“empty nest” years, in which parents must redefine their roles), 7) years in which children begin their own households (parents must accept new people into the family, including the new son- or daughter-in-law and in-laws), and 8) grandparenthood (see Module 8). The original research on the empty nest syndrome reported parental sadness when the last child left. Today’s research shows that marital satisfaction increases after the last child has left (the upswing hypothesis) (Santrock, 2009; Berger, 2010, Table 13.2, p. 469). Task 3 includes managing a career, including being a manager or mentor as well as an employee (adapted from Newman & Newman, 2010). Researchers explore both the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards associated with work. In addition, the many alternatives of working schedules (e.g., flextime, job sharing, and telecommuting) are also factors that affect job satisfaction and productivity (Berger, 2010). Developmental psychologist Robert Havighurst Case

Coping with stress is essential (see Module 6 for the research on PNI). Lazarus (in Berger, 2010) discovered that problem-focused coping techniques (designed to reduce the problem) are generally more effective than emotion-focused coping strategies (designed to reduce anxiety, but not the problem). Social support provides an important buffer from stress; this perhaps contributes to the fact that married persons live longer than singles (Santrock, 2009). Sarason reported that the chief stressor for men is work, whereas for women, the top two are health and family (Santrock, 2009). Developmental psychologist Robert Havighurst Case

Religion is important for the majority of Americans. Allport divided people into two categories: those with intrinsic (or devout) faith, and those with extrinsic (or superficial) faith. James Fowler (cited in Hood, Hill, & Spilka, 2009) constructed a theory of religious development, which consists of seven stages. 1) In primal faith (infancy), the child is beginning to trust others. 2) intuitive-projective faith (early childhood) is where the child is becoming aware of the sacred, prohibitions, and morality. 3) In mythical/literal faith (elementary school years), the child is thinking more logically about faith matters; religious beliefs and symbols are accepted literally. 4) synthetic/conventional faith (early adolescence) is where the teenager is thinking more abstractly, which can lead to a desire for a personal relationship with God. 5) With individuative/ reflective faith (late adolescence/early adulthood), the person can critically examine his/her values and beliefs. 6) conjunctive faith (middle adulthood or beyond) is where the person appreciates that truth is both multidimensional and interdependent. 7) In universalizing faith (unspecified age), only a few people (e.g., Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King) arrive at this last stage; this stage involves a commitment of love and justice for all people, and overcoming oppression and violence. See Berger’s discussion of Fowler’s theory on pages 448-449 of the textbook. Developmental psychologist Robert Havighurst Case


Physical Development in Late Adulthood

This last stage of life (roughly age 60 to death) abounds with negative stereotypes and prejudice (called ageism). However, as the “Baby Boomers” (those born between 1946 and 1964) are starting to reach retirement, our society is paying more attention to this stage (Quadagno, 2005). The fields of gerontology (scientific study of the aged) and geriatrics (the medical equivalent) are increasing. Some researchers have even speculated that this last period is perhaps two or even three stages (e.g., 60 to 75, “young-olds,” 75 to 85, “old-olds,” and 85+, “oldest olds”) (Berger, 2010). Interestingly, while average life expectancy has increased by about 30 years over the last century (currently 75.4 for men and 80.7 for women), the maximum life span still hovers around 120 to 125 years (Santrock, 2009; Quadagno, 2005).


Numerous theories exist as to why people age. Microbiological theories include speculations about intracellular changes, such as mutations in DNA and RNA, autoimmunity, and the increase of cellular garbage, free radicals, and toxins. Another theory, cellular clock theory, holds that cells can only divide about 75 to 80 times. A theory generating a lot of current interest is mitochondrial theory, which holds that aging is due to the destruction of mitochondria, the cell’s chief energy source. Macrobiological theories point to a decrease in one’s organ reserve and an increase in homeostatic imbalance and stress-related hormones (Santrock, 2009).

Several physical changes occur in this stage, some of which occur in everyone (primary aging) and others that occur due to poor health and/or genetic factors (secondary aging). The elderly person thinks and moves more slowly, resulting in increased cautiousness. The skin becomes drier and loses its elasticity. Sensory acuity diminishes in sensitivity of touch, hearing, and vision (in the form of cataracts, macular degeneration,and/or glaucoma) (see Berger, 2010, Table 14.1, p. 503). Gums recede, and loss of teeth may change one’s facial appearance. Hair color changes to gray and white, and wrinkles abound. The most common physical complaint is arthritis. One type of arthritis, osteoporosis, the loss of bone calcium, can become a serious health threat, especially in women (Silverstone & Hyman, 1982). The leading causes of death are cardiovascular disease (including myocardial infarction, or heart attack, and angina pectoris, or severe pain over midchest), cancer (an uncontrolled growth of a tissue or portion of an organ, which may be benign or malignant), and stroke (death of part of the brain). Other common diseases of the elderly include 1) AlzheimerDisease, an incurable degeneration of the cortex, causing personality changes and loss of memory, 2) atherosclerosis, a narrowing and closing of the arteries supplying blood to the brain, 3) congestive heart failure, a weakened heart muscle, 4) hypertension, high blood pressure, which can lead to arterial disease, and 5) Type II diabetes, a deficiency of insulin or a disturbance in the action of insulin (Silverstone & Hyman, 1982, pp. 340-344). For the majority of older adults, proper nutrition, regular exercise, and physical activity will slow down the deteriorative effects of aging (Santrock, 2009).


Cognitive Development in Late Adulthood

One way to test cognitive abilities is to use selective attention and divided attention tasks. Selective attention is the ability to focus on a particular stimulus, among competing ones, while divided attention is the ability to shift back and forth between two competing stimuli. Elderly adults can perform selective attention tasks, but have significant problems with the latter. Mnemonics techniques are good strategies to help senior adults memorize materials. Elaboration is another good strategy, although senior adults generally need more time for a technique like this. Recognition memory (e.g., performance on a multiple-choice test) is usually superior to recall memory (e.g., performance on an essay test). Riegel and Riegel have found that often, there is a drop in intellectual ability about 5 years before death (the terminal drop hypothesis) (Santrock, 2009).

There are numerous examples of elderly accomplishments: as examples, Sophocles wrote his first play at age 75, Freud wrote his last book at age 83, Franklin invented the bifocal lens at age 78, Wright completed the Guggenheim museum at age 91, and Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel from ages 71 to 89 (Berger, 2010). Taylor (1974) found that a different type of creativity is seen in the elderly; he termed it emergentive creativity, a creation of totally new or original ideas.

Productivity remains high in late adulthood, and older workers have lower rates of accidents and job turnover, compared to young adults. Nevertheless, the problems of ageism and obsolescence (work skills becoming obsolete) occur.

Depression is a significant problem in late adulthood. The rate of suicide (25%) is higher for those over age 65 than for any other stage of life. One’s spirituality is often a comfort in helping the person adjust to all of the changes occurring in this stage (Santrock, 2009).



In this module, psychosocial development in adulthood was examined and late adulthood was touched upon. In the last module, additional research on late adulthood will be examined. Some of the issues that will be discussed include retirement, grandparenting, life satisfaction, widowhood/ widowerhood, and frail elderly. The topic of death and dying will also be discussed, with a focus on definitions of death, near-death experiences, theories of death, dying, and bereavement, and hospice care.



Berger, K. S. (2010). Invitation to the life span. New York: Worth Publishers.


Boeree, C. G. (2006a). Abraham Maslow. Retrieved August 23, 2010 from


Boeree, C. G. (2006b). Erik Erikson. Retrieved August 23, 2010 from


Hood, R. W., Hill, P. C., & Spilka, B. (2009). The psychology of religion (4th ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.


Newman, P. R., & Newman, B. (2010). Development through life: A psychosocial approach (10th ed). Boston: Wadsworth.


Quadagno, J. (2005). Aging and the life course (3rd ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.


Santrock, J. W. (2009). Life-span development (12th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.


Sheehy, G. (1976). Passages. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.


Silverstone, B., & Hyman, H. K. (1982). You and your aging parent. New York:Pantheon Books.


Taylor, I. (1974). Creativity and aging. In E. Pfeiffer (Ed.), Successful aging: A conference report. Durham, NC: Center for the Study of Aging and Development.