Generativity Versus Stagnation: Middle Adulthood, 7th Stage of Human Life Span
by Cynthia M. Braden, LMFT
Individuals in this age range are usually helping the younger generation to achieve educational, business and relationship goals, and to lead productive and happy lives. This is what Erikson meant by 'generativity'. The opposite is 'stagnation,' where apparently that means sitting around watching tv and not contributing much to others, or expecting young people to entertain and provide for you. Ouch.
When the children are grown up, there may be a moment to relax. After the harrowing process of getting kids through adolescence, parents may be ready for a break from responsibilities. According to Erikson's model however, the middle and older adult needs to be continually engaged in the support and guidance of younger lives. This means support, not demanding obiesance or submission or face negative consequences or punishments. More than ever, younger generations today need a wise and level-headed mentor, friend, parent, co-worker, boss, neighbor.
Where Problems Occur in the 7th Stage of Development
Many adults in recent years have been experiencing difficulties with employment and money situations. They may have worked hard all their lives yet are still scrambling to keep everything afloat. This doesn't make it too easy to help others when you are struggling yourself.
High incidence of divorce also contributes to financial and social instability. By this age a person may have two or three ex-families or spouses. We may think that divorce mostly affects children, but younger adults with their own families are feeling a heavy obligation to take care of older parents who may be single and alone. It comes to mind now around holiday time especially, as divided loyalties have to be managed like never before. Therapy can be very helpful to deal with these type of situations.
The ideal according to Erikson is for the middle and older adult to be in a position to effectively help and contribute to the lives of younger generations in order to enjoy a life well-lived into old age.
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