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Encyclopedia of Psychology Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, Editor-in-Chief

ADULTHOOD AND AGING

Personality Processes and Development

Some theorists have proposed stage models that postulate a series of qualitative reorganizations throughout adulthood in the structure and content of personality. Other theorists have promoted stability in personality throughout adulthood due to the existence of enduring dispositions whose structure and levels are set very early in life. A third viewpoint is based on a process model in which change is predicted to occur continuously and cumulatively throughout adulthood and old age without radical shifts or alterations.

The Kansas City Study conducted by Neugarten and her associates in the late 1950s and early 1960s laid the groundwork for the “disengagement theory,” arguing that old age brings with it a mutual withdrawal of the individual from society and vice versa. According to this theory, those happiest in old age have turned their attention inward toward the self and away from involvement in the outside world.

«Какое мне дело до вас до всех? И вам до меня!» (Песня о погибших пилотах Музыка: М. Вайнберг Слова: М. Соболь 1958.)

Personality growth in adulthood and old age according to Erikson focuses on the establishment of close interpersonal relationships (intimacy versus isolation), and the passing on to the future of one’s creative products (generativity versus stagnation). In the final stage (ego integrity versus despair), the individual must resolve conflicted feelings about the past, adapt to the changes associated with the aging process. and come to grips with the inevitability of death.

In the integrated stage, which is very much like Erikson’s concept of ego integrity, the individual is able to recognize and resolve inner conflicts and feels a sense of acceptance. This stage also brings with it an open approach to new situations and experiences and a continuing commitment to fulfilling one’s inner potential. According to Loevinger, not all individuals progress through all stages; in fact, the last stage is achieved only by very few older adults.

However, it should be kept in mind that the stability of personality traits demonstrated in these studies does not imply that the individual’s identity remains static throughout the adult years. Personality traits may remain stable, but the individual’s awareness of these traits and ability to adapt behaviors accordingly may shift over time.

Several theorists have proposed mechanisms that promote such balance or equilibrium as people adapt to changing circumstances in life, proposing that individuals develop a narrative or story about their lives and organize the events in the past, present, and future in terms of this narrative. The organizing framework for this narrative, according to Whitbourne (1985), is identity and according to Baumeister, is the motivation to make sense out of experience (Baumeister & Newman, 1994).I n the process of constructing such a narrative, the individual’s interpretation of past experiences and projections regarding future experiences are heavily influenced by current views of the self and the desire to maintain consistency with this view.

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