Bulletin No. 2, 1994
Changing Family and Work Life During Middle Age
main events of midlife, familiar and predictable as they are, nevertheless
create much diversity of experience. There are different rates of disabilities,
divorce and separation, deaths in the family, and other midlife occurrences,
for income, for race, and ethnic groups. There are differences within a
society at different times in its history. There are obvious differences
between societies around the world.
We note, too, that often what looks like the same midlife experience turns out not to be so. There are personal differences in the meaning of what could be described objectively as the same event. One person's divorce is benign and someone else's is destructive; the death of a parent can be an emotional and economic loss to one person, but an economic windfall and emotional freedom for another.
We can see, also, that for the major social transitions between ages
30-64, there are no sharp peaks of occurrence at any age. Midlife is more
flexible than are childhood and old age. It is less driven by a biological
clock that causes the changes in childhood and old age. The same events
of midlife can occur at different ages for different people. We know, too,
that there is no set order, no series of stages, in which these familiar
events may occur. There are different sequences for different people. Thus,
though most of us will share the events of midlife, there is no single
path that we all take.
Sometime between the ages of 30 and 64 many of
the following events will happen to you: Your mother and/or father will
die. Your children will leave home and then provide you with one or more
grandchildren. You'll be working less than full-time, and one or more of
your children may move back in with you.
One MIDMAC research project describes changes in family and work during midlife. The project report is organized into five sections: Parents at Midlife, Adult Daughters and Sons at Midlife, Marital Status and Living Arrangements, Assets and Employment, and Health and Well-Being. This excerpt focuses on selected status transitions in family and work.
The two charts presented here show differences and similarities between
men and women as they move through the experiences of midlife.
On the other hand, there is no single transition, or set of transitions, that define either the youngest, or the oldest ages of midlife. Definitions such as ages 30-64 serve well as approximations of the ages of midlife for research purposes, but it is clearly a period of life with boundaries as definitive, yet ambiguous, as those of "adolescence" or "old age."
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