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The history of concepts about the adult and that of research into adult constructs show progression from a simple characterization of growth to a variety of complex constructs that define the terrain. Originally, the term adult encompassed all species and events that had attained full physical maturation, a product connotation. Later, time and events (e.g., marriage, the birth of children) became proxies for adult development. The absence of considerations of adult development was augmented by the fact that, for much of the past, adults could not be seen in long-term individual evolution since lifetimes were not extensive. In the 73 years of Psychological Abstracts, adults under various headings (e.g., adulthood, middle age) was referenced in a mere .01% of citations. The first mention of “adult” in a journal title was in 1994. Into the 21st century, although the exploration of various adult constructs abounds, the use of single terms (e.g., intelligence, wisdom) to describe multidimensional attributes leads to misunderstanding and reductionism. There is scant cross-construct analysis and, along with its parent discipline of psychology, analysis of adult development remains at the nascent descriptive level. Looking at the two major constructs of adult personality and intelligence, personality has had the lion’s share of publications. An examination of trends in its analysis reveals that the constructs are defined in various ways, little in the way of socio-contextual appraisal has occurred, and, with respect to the appraisal of intelligence, motivation to perform is ill-examined.

Article

S.P.J. van Alphen and S.M.J. Heijnen-Kohl

Personality disorders severely impact a person’s functioning in many ways. Although a person may have found ways to cope throughout life, at an older age underlying dysfunctional patterns can emerge and cause much distress both for the person and those around them. Why normal personality traits shift to abnormality is not easily understood. In literature there are many theories with different definitions. In this chapter a few of the prominent theories on the description of personality will be discussed. For example, some psychologists have described personality as a complex pattern that is deeply tied to psychological characteristics that are largely unaware, hard to wipe out, and expressed in all aspects of functioning. Other psychologists define personality as individual differences in the tendency to display consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The American Psychiatric Association (2013) defines personality traits as enduring patterns in the way someone perceives, relates to, and thinks about the environment and oneself and that these patterns are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal context. These definitions of personality are all concerned with unique and stable characteristics in different situations. These theories are not age-specific, but age-related changes and differences in manifestations do occur. This complicates diagnosis as measurements for older adults have barely been developed or validated. The feasibility of measurements and various information sources will be addressed. Descriptions and diagnosis have the ability to enhance treatment for patients with personality disorders. Known treatment forms have successfully been applied to older adults as well and differing treatment levels will be distinguished. Treatment of first choice can be aimed at changing personality characteristics or enhancing adaptation, but in some cases supportive treatment is the best fit. In clinical practice a variety of possible interventions is needed to provide the best care for different manifestations of personality disorders.

Article

Joseph A. Mikels and Nathaniel A. Young

The adult life span is characterized as a time of divergent trajectories. It is a time of compounding losses (such as physical, sensory, and cognitive declines) and is also a time of surprising growth (such as improvements in well-being and emotion regulation). These divergent trajectories present theorists with the paradox of aging: in the face of accumulating losses, how is it that as people age, they generally feel good and experience greater well-being? Theorists have grappled with this paradox and have focused on how motivational, cognitive, control, and social factors impact emotional development across the adult life span. These foundational theories have paved the way to a deeper understanding of adult life-span development, but they do not draw as deeply from theories in affective science. Some of the latest perspectives on emotion and aging offer integrative views, such as how older adults may experience different discrete emotion (i.e., anger versus sadness) from an evolutionary functional perspective. Other perspectives consider how an array of appraisal processes may change across adulthood (such as shifts in evaluations of self-control versus other-control for younger versus older adults). These newer approaches dig deeper into mechanistic explanations and underscore the need for greater theoretical integration. Later life is clearly a time of increased well-being, but the field is only on the cusp of understanding the mysteries of emotional experience in later life.

Article

Bradley W. Young, Bettina Callary, and Scott Rathwell

Paralleling the graying of the baby boomer generation, there has been remarkable growth in the number of Masters athletes (adult sport participants generally 35+ years old) and Seniors athletes (55+) worldwide. The phenomenon of the aging or older athlete is an opportunity to study the psychological conditions and considerations that distinguish older sportspersons from their younger counterparts. Although the vast majority of sport psychology research focuses on youth and adolescents or young adults in a high-performance context, a critical mass of literature on middle-aged and older athletes has emerged. Much research has aimed to understand the sport motivation of older adults; this work has evolved from early descriptive works to increasingly theoretically grounded and analytically advanced efforts that seek to better understand older athletes’ sport commitment and their long-term goal striving behaviors. Another theme of inquiry relates to the nature of adult athletes’ social motivations and the role of social identity in explaining immersion into sport. Research has examined various social influences on older athletes, and specifically how different social agents and social norms come to bear on older athletes’ sport participation. Much work has interrogated how social support facilitates older sport participation as well as the unique negotiations that older adults make with significant others to sustain their experience. Another research theme has sought to determine the various psychosocial benefits of adult sport, cataloguing benefits related to personal growth, age-related adaptation, and successful aging outcomes. Although the discourse on adult sport has been overly positive, several contributions have problematized aspects of adult sport, challenged the assertion that adult athletes are models that many others could follow, and have further suggested that narratives of Masters athletes may reinforce ageist stigma.