Lifespan Development: Middle to Late Adulthood

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This essay involves an interview with a 50-year-old male to be referred to as Mr. P onwards. This paper explores his developmental trajectory in physical, cognitive, and socioemotional aspects, which are then theoretically explained and compared with Santrock’s research. In his 50s, Mr. P is worried about the devastating consequences of isolation. His life is defined by experiences of diminishing physical health but improving socio-emotional and cognitive development, which can be explained by the socioemotional selectivity and Erikson’s lifespan development theories.

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Physical Development

According to Mr. P, the aging process has become apparent in his middle adulthood. He admits that he has lost the ability to see objects clearly in the distance. His skin is also continuously drying out, revealing age spots and blood vessels. Mr. P’s compromised physical functioning makes participating in social activities complicated. His explanation of his middle adulthood corresponds to Santrock’s (2019) definition of this period of declining physical well-being. Several cardiovascular problems and osteoarthritis also reinforce its decrease.

Socioemotional Development

Mr. P has put significant effort into maintaining positive relationships with his immediate family, such as his wife, parents, and children. Santrock (2019) considers these achievements to result in a state of well-being in adult years. Besides, he insisted that just because his children were independent does mean they stopped being part of his family. Although separating from his children resulted in financial reprieve, it also caused sadness for Mr. P — a situation described by Santrock (2019) as an empty nest. On the other hand, he still has social support from his wife and job colleagues, which helps him make up for the lack of communication and cope with this sadness.

Cognitive Development

Unlike Santrock (2019), who associates middle adulthood with cognitive decline, Mr. P’s description of his aging experience does not portray any signs of decreasing speed of thinking. According to Mr. P, he is experiencing improvements in verbal memory and inductive reasoning. Moreover, he links his improved cognitive ability to mentally and physically stimulating activities. Mr. P stated that most of his job strategies were the product of his experience, which helped him to be efficient. Contrastingly, Santrock (2019) explains that knowledge and expertise can always compensate for cognitive decline.

Theoretical Perspective

Santrock (2019) argues that positive aging is best achieved through social connectedness and support. When people get towards middle and late adulthood, the socioemotional selectivity theory proposes the possibility of dwindling social support but insists that it is maintained at a level as close to previous years. Mr. P contends with feelings of loneliness triggered by his children’s fear of moving out. An alternative to some people’s departure is a closer rapprochement with other individuals. On the other hand, he can try to increase the total number of acquaintances. While Santrock (2019) argues that isolation has adverse effects on older adults’ psychological well-being, maintaining active social lives helps counteract loneliness. Mr. P. is currently struggling to follow these principles, but he is gradually moving on.

Erikson’s lifespan development theory is also applicable in Mr. P’s case. Considering his situation, he will likely fall into one of the categories within this framework. The first category, Generativity vs. Stagnation, denotes a situation for people from 40 to mid-60 and is associated with the transition from activity to stagnation and lack of interest. The second concept, Integrity vs. Despair, captures people in the mid-60s but is a conflict between feeling a well-lived life and regretting unaccomplished tasks. Mr. P reviews his efforts, and rather than grieving over the children’s moving out, he comes to terms with the impact he has had on their lives. Besides, he is pleased with his career growth and mental development. Therefore, the last of the two considered categories can be applied to him, as Mr. P live his middle adulthood life with a sense of integrity rather than despair.

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From Mr. P’s perspective, middle adulthood is characterized by declining physical health and expanding social and emotional responsibility. Mr. P shows more awareness of his shrinking time left in life by focusing on his children’s future. His primary concern is to ensure the well-being of the next generation and maintain satisfaction in his socioemotional life. The shorter time, that Mr. P believes he has left in life, triggers him to prioritize meaningful aspects of his legacy, i.e., children and their future. In this case, Mr. P selectively navigates socioemotional and cognitive development as a way of maintaining relatively high levels of well-being amid his declining physical well-being.


Santrock, J. W. (2019). Essentials of life-span development (6th ed.). McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022, June 28). Lifespan Development: Middle to Late Adulthood. Retrieved from


PsychologyWriting. (2022, June 28). Lifespan Development: Middle to Late Adulthood.

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"Lifespan Development: Middle to Late Adulthood." PsychologyWriting, 28 June 2022,


PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'Lifespan Development: Middle to Late Adulthood'. 28 June.


PsychologyWriting. 2022. "Lifespan Development: Middle to Late Adulthood." June 28, 2022.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Lifespan Development: Middle to Late Adulthood." June 28, 2022.


PsychologyWriting. "Lifespan Development: Middle to Late Adulthood." June 28, 2022.