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Daniel Levinson

Theories of Life Stages and Human Development

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DANIEL LEVINSON

Who is he?
Daniel Levinson graduated from Yale as a psychologist.  He later developed a comprehensive theory of adult development.  This theory is important because it is one of the only ones which suggests that development and growth happens well into the adult years. 

His theory:
 
 At the center of Levinson's theory is the life structure.  This is an underlying pattern of an individual's life at any given point in time.  A person's life structure is shaped mainly by their social and physical environment, and it primarily involves family and work.  Other variables such as religion, race, and status are often important as well. 
In his theory there are two key concepts:
1) the Stable Period - This is the time when a person makes crucial choices in life.
2) the Transitional Period - This is the end of a person's stage and the beginning of a new one. Life during these transitions can be either rocky or smooth, but the quality and significance of one’s life commitments often change between the beginning and end of a period.
 
There are 6 stages of adulthood in Levinson's theory titled "Seasons of a Man's Life":
1) Early adult transition (17-22) - leave adolescence, make preliminary choices for adult life
2) Entering the adult world (22-28) - make initial choices in love, occupation, friendship, values, lifestyle
3) Age 30 transition (28-33) - changes occur in life structure, either a moderate change or, more often, a severe and stressful crisis
4) Settling down (33-40) - establish a niche in society, progress on a timetable, in both family and career accomplishments; are expected to think and behave like a parent so they are facing more demanding roles and expectations .
5) Mid-life transition (40-45) - life structure comes into question, usually a time of crisis in the meaning, direction, and value of each person's life.  neglected parts of the self (talents, desires, aspirations) seek expression.  Men are seen more as parents than as “brothers” to other men who are somewhat younger than them and this message comes as an irritation at first.  Also at this time, men becoming increasingly aware of death and they are reminded of how short life really is.  They become involved in trying to leave a legacy and this usually forms the core of the second half of his life.
6) Entering middle adulthood (45-50) - choices must be made, a new life structure formed.  person must commit to new tasks.
* Some sources also stated that there was a late adulthood stage during which time a man spent time reflecting on past achievements and regrets, and making peace with one's self and others (including God).
** Daniel Levinson later went on to write a book titled “Seasons of a Woman's Life”.

Problems with Levinson's theory:
   Daniel Levinson collected the data for his study many decades ago, shortly after the Great Depression ended.  Due to the time period, the men used for this study have 3 things in common:
1) they come from stable families
2) they had realistic goals for their life
3) became adults in an expanding economy
    Men who have grown up in the last four or five decades , however, have had to deal with less stable families due to high divorce rates, and they tend to have goals which are much more difficult to achieve.  They have also had to deal with a fluctuating economy, and because of these differences it is difficult to apply Levinson's studies to today's generation.

How does this theory apply to school?
    Since most most sources state that Levinson's theory begins at the age of 17 in the “Early Adult Transition”, there isnt any reference to how one develops during the school years.

How does this theory apply to society?
 
"Adults hope that life begins at 40--but the great anxiety is that it ends there." - Daniel Levinson
 
     There are a number of attitudes expressed which would appear to have an affect on society.  Firstly, many people are making the transition from youth to adulthood without any hope or optimism.  This says that society as a whole throughout this age bracket is lacking enthusiasm and drive.  When men near the age of thirty, they have new expectations in society such as to provide for their children and aging parents.  They are seen more as fathers than they were previously.  The occurance of a culminating event in a man's life surfaces the midlife transition stage.  When this happens, men usually become interested in acts of humanitarianism, and they are more cautious as they come to terms with the reality of death.   

How does this theory apply to the workplace?

 In Levinson's book he claims, “the dreams we have are so compelling that nothing short of total success satisfies.”
  
    Once men reach the age of thirty, or so, they are taking more senior positions in their jobs as their focus is to provide care for their children and their aging parents.  Once a man reaches his forties, he begins questioning, “Is this all I am going to do for the rest of my life?”.  This often causes one to drastically change their field of work, an act that has come to be known as a “midlife crisis”.  By this age, men have often made the amount of money that they desire and so they begin looking into jobs that benefit others.