THE MIDDLE AGES: CHANGE IN WOMEN'S PERSONALITIES AND SOCIAL ROLES

Authors


  • Nicola J. Newton and Abigail J. Stewart, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan.

  • We extend our thanks to the Personality and Social Contexts research group and Jacquelynne Eccles for their insightful comments concerning earlier drafts of this article, as well as Kai Cortina, Kathy Welch, and David Winter for statistical consultation. Collection of the data reported in this research has been supported by the Boston University Graduate School, National Science Foundation Visiting Professorships for Women, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, the MacArthur Foundation Network for Research on Successful Midlife Development, Radcliffe Research Support and Midlife Program Grants from the Henry A. Murray Research Center, National Institute of Mental Health subgrants under Grants 1-RO1-MH43948 and 1-RO1-MH47408, National Institute on Aging Training Grant T32-AG0017, and the University of Michigan. Computer-accessible and other data from several previous waves are archived at the Henry A. Murray Research Center, Radcliffe College, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 01238.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Nicola J. Newton, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 530 Church Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1403. E-mail: nickynew@umich.edu

Abstract

It has been argued that the predominant focus of midlife personality development is generativity; other research has found that social roles influence both its onset and its expression. In this article, we examine women's midlife personality development and its relationship to career and family commitments. Results for a sample of 90 women indicated that commitment to particular social projects in early midlife was associated with different patterns of identity, intimacy, and generativity levels at age 62. In addition, women who added social projects to existing projects during adulthood expressed similar levels of identity, intimacy, and generativity at age 62 as women whose social project commitments had stayed the same. For smaller subsamples of women in the study, longitudinal analyses assessed changes in personality development within middle age as well as the relationship between personality and the maintenance or addition of social projects. These results highlight important variation among women who followed different adult life paths.

Ancillary