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Describe and evaluate one theoretical approach to understanding adult development

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Introduction

Describe and evaluate one theoretical approach to understanding adult development. As a field of study, adult development refers to the study of early and middle adulthood; later adulthood usually falls under the fields entitled aging or gerontology. How one approaches the study of adult development, however, depends on one's theoretical orientation, and how one subsequently defines the term adult development. This can be best illustrated within the typology offered by Merriam and Caffarella (1999) as it illustrates what each cluster seeks to accomplish. Building on the work of Permutter and Hall (1985) and Bee (1996), Merriam and Caffarella (1999) developed a schema consisting of four components: biological, psychological, socio-cultural, and integrative models. The biological perspective portrays change in terms of one's physiological process, that changes are driven by natural aging, the environment, our own health habits, or disease processes (Schroeder, 1992). The psychological perspective focuses on how we develop as individuals and examines primarily internal developmental process (Passer and Smith, 2001). Numerous concepts form the foundation for the study of adult development from the psychological perspective; namely, identity development (Erikson, 1982), faith development (Fowler, 1981), ego development (Loevinger, 1976), and moral development (Kohlberg, 1973). ...read more.

Middle

This is accomplished by establishing one or more genuinely intimate relationships; 'love' is the strength to be attained. In the second stage of adulthood - generativity versus stagnation - the individual must find a way to support the next generation by redirecting attention from self to others. Successful mastery of this stage results in 'care'. Resolution of the final stage of adulthood - integrity versus despair - culminates in 'wisdom'. Erikson (1968) defines integrity as "the acceptance of one's one and only life cycle and the people who have become significant to it as something that had to be and that, by necessity, permitted no substitutions" (Erikson, 1968; p. 139; as cited in Hoare, 2005); meaning, if all previous life stages have been addressed in a satisfactory way, those approaching the end of life are able to accept themselves as they are. Unlike Erikson, Levinson (1986) identifies a relatively orderly sequence of periods during the adult years that are age-linked. He acknowledges a relationship between his periods and Erikson's developmental stages, but emphasises change rather than development. For Levinson (1986), development consists of periods of relative stability (structure building) ...read more.

Conclusion

Although Levinson's initial research was limited to middle-class American men, Levinson maintains that his theory also applies to women, different social classes, diverse cultures, and other periods of history (Levinson and Levinson, 1996). Other weaknesses of stage theories are the overemphasis on chronological age, which may mask variations in individual lives, for example, Neugarten (1968), in challenging the age-graded concept of adult development, noted that U.S. society is increasingly age irrelevant. She notes how participation in further education is no longer "from the ages of 18 years to 22 years" rather rooms are now populated with a much wider age range of people (Neugarten, 1968). The need to understand adult development is essential for the development of scientific knowledge that focuses on the welfare of humankind in general. The contribution of expert psychologists in the field of adult development has been considered in the present essay. The approach of the essay was that of theoretical approach and the contributions on stage model were given priority for the discussion. We hereby conclude that understanding of development in adults has gained great insight by the contribution of stage model and is therefore exercising a prominent role of application with appreciation in the field of psychology. Word Count: 2072. ...read more.

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