WOMEN AND MIDLIFE 1
Within sociologyof aging and social gerontology there is a tendency of midlife andaging as characterized to be a period of adaptation, commodification,and consumption of the body. Various articles in the paper havefocused on the extent to which an appearance of aging could impact onthe creation of specific self-identity during midlife, especially inwomen. Certain limitations have been overlooked over ethnical andcultural significance and how midlife is experienced by women. Inthis paper, theorizations appear to overlook the complexities alignedwith midlife and the manner in which they are bound up with the past.Based on the research studies conducted with women from diversebackgrounds over the whole idea of midlife and midlife crisis,certain issues are covered in the paper, which include aging,divorce, development in midlife women, midlife crisis, and women atmidlife. The main bone of contention is that women responsibilitiesat midlife differ greatly in respect to their body states andrelationships. .
Midlifecan be referred to as a construct that in recent times has beenregarded in some ways. Along the literature which defines midlife,there are different interpretations of what could this developmentalstage encompasses. According to Lyons & Griffin (2003), midlifecan be defined as "the stage of life between ages 45 and 64."This stage in life is not a strange phenomenon, but it is one thathas elicited resurgence in interest over the past twenty years or so.The resurgence could be as a result of the increase in rates of lifeexpectancy, which in turn as led to prolonged work life and careerchanges in adults. However, these transitions and impending careerchanges are often met with a series of emotional, psychological,physical, and cultural changes that occur in this process.
To date,variations in midlife definitions have not been concrete, which meansthe term is one of the most misunderstood life span developmentconstructs. The variations in definition may also impact ways it canbe examined. For example, it can be described as a person`schronological stage that often falls between the ages of 35 and 60years old. This construct can also refer to it as a period of anindividual reflection of maturity and growth for those who look intothe future seeking fulfillment of their goals and desires (Sakraida,2005). The same period of growth can also be associated withtransition or major life crisis.
In women, forinstance, it is a time in their lives that is brought about theirdevelopmental and biological experience during these crucial years,which comes about by the realization of menopause stage. Women atmidlife come as a realization that the children have all grown up,and that is a time to find opportunities to accomplish due to theopportunities she had put up during motherhood. In this stage, womenalso experience changes, both biologically and psychologicallybecause of menopause, which also result in their questioning of theyhad lived their lives, and whether there is a need for a fewadjustments. The paper, therefore, will focus on women at midlife,midlife crisis, and midlife as a phenomenological examination ofchange. Additionally, the paper will also investigate the experiencesof midlife for particular women group, and how midlife crisis affectsthe women psychologically, biologically, and physically.
TheConcept of Midlife Crisis
Before taking alook at women at midlife, it is better first to understand theconcept of midlife crisis, which the transition reality provides asubject of contention. According to Wethington (2000), he observedthat individuals consider midlife crisis as part of a transitiontargeted at exploring changes in individual behavior, personality,and life orientation. Most researchers and academic scholars sincethe 80s have argued the view that midlife crisis is only a phase thatmost likely is experienced by only adults. Following a studyconducted by Saucier (2004), a lesser percentage of the Americanadults went through psychological crises, which was attributed toaging.
The same research went ahead to stress the significance ofhighlighting differences between a midlife crisis and a midlifestressor. In this regard, Wethington (2000) points out those midlifestressors are frequently mistaken because they add up and areconsidered to a midlife crisis, but in reality, they are simplyoverloads of stressors. The concept of midlife crisis also reflectson middle-aged individuals that have witnessed loads of setbacks andpainful life events, for example, the loss of loved ones, which inturn result in extending the time span of psychological depression.There is also a high probability that all these life events may havetaken place earlier or later in life, which in this case, rules outthe possibility of essentially being considered a midlife crisis.Looking at life at midlife, the concepts above will examinespecificities of women at midlife.
Women at midlife are faced with different life prospects thatdirectly or indirectly affect them physically, financially, and howthey perceive life. Related research conducted by McQuaide (1998)focuses on women at midlife. His study investigated midlifeexperiences for a group of white women within the New York City area.The white women were recruited and were required to fill upquestionnaires. In the questionnaires, the questions consisted ofbeliefs, attitudes, and feelings on midlife. About their feelings onaging, they were asked about they feel on their body changes.Regarding the study, it was noted that women at midlife had anembodied experience about midlife. McQuaide (1998) observed that forwomen, these feelings are often associated with changes inreproduction, menopause, and their body appearance.
Of importancein the above study is how women at midlife perceived their bodychanges due to aging. In respect to aging, midlife is linked to thepursuit of remaining youthful and avoiding growing old. The study inthe white women revealed that there has been a total shift fromportraying "middle age" as negative and is an adaptationperiod (Wethington, 2000). Pressure from women at midlife has sinceled to a proposal to increase the number of consumer goods, targetedat counteracting physical signs because of aging, has insisted on theuse of techniques of body maintenance lie dieting, exercising, andcosmetic surgery.
From the study conducted by McQuaide (1998), the white women from theNew York City area noted that to manage the aging surface of theirbodies would enhance their ‘ageless` identity. Women at midlifeconsider their aging bodies a huge burden because if it fails, itbecomes a representation of their perception as their growth mucholder. These perspectives, as conducted by McQuaide (1998), offerstheoretical insights over consumerism growth, body modification, andthe process of ageism in the western society, which continues toinfluence women over aging. There are themes that women haveprioritized and are ethnocentrically positioned within particulardevelopments in the Western societies as recorded from the white NewYork women.
These themes have been prioritized by the consumption, for example,consumption and midlife notion as a time of crisis, which maps thewomen`s notions of culture and their aging standards. Additionally,women at midlife are characterized by their efforts over there inconsideration when it comes to the impact of their ethnic diversityand gender. Regarding the study done by Lyons & Griffin (2003),the white women acknowledged that their class differences at midlifecontribute to different levels of pursuits of leading differentlevels of anti-ageing lifestyles.
Motivationand Emotion, Expecting Stress, and Midlife Crisis
As discussedabove, the American white women at midlife are observed to havedifferent views and insinuation of experiences and events when theyturn 40. In connection with research study by Wethington (2000),there is a dysfunction between social views about midlife crisis andresearcher`s point of view. When asked about what their emotions andfeelings in respect to their sentiments over midlife, these Americanwomen felt that their motivation has diminished when they hit the ageof 40. They view midlife as a time of uncertainty and risk.
The level of motivation and enthusiasm tend to drop it is a time whenthe bodies of these women begin to "do odd things" and "goagainst you" (Saucier, 2004). These women are observed to beless motivated and less enthusiastic about their current state oftheir bodies, now that they are over 40 years than when they were intheir mid-twenties. As discussed, midlife stressors are differentfrom midlife crises. For instance, these women`s ability toappreciate their body state at midlife is a reflection of diminishingenthusiasm and escalation of stress levels. Lyons & Griffin(2003) observed that some American participants in the study spoke oftheir inability to come to terms with their current physical look,and did not correspond to their initial level of enthusiasm andmotivation.
Stressors, as observed from Wethington (2000) study of the Americanwomen participants, claimed that they are as a result of thediscrepancies, which stems from the category of personal and socialchanges. These changes result in minimal opportunities, failure totake advantage of opportunities, and more constraints over theirhealth and financial status. For women at midlife, the stressors comeas a result of the realization that the children have all grown upand ready to leave the household. The American participants alsonoted that the stressors level is influenced by social and personalchange. The financial constraints following many years of taking careof the children are also considered to be the main cause stressor,especially when the inability to cater for oneself is put intoconsideration.
Midlife crisisin women, as mentioned in Lyons & Griffin (2003), ischaracterized by self-evaluation. For example, one participant in theabove study noted she had established and developed an identityreflected her life goals and career. However, she claimed that therisks involved in losing or altering her identity when she hit fortywas high due to the elements that assisted with the creation ofuncertainty in her identity. Is uncertainty of life, which isconsidered as a midlife crisis, is insufficient or irrelevantfollowing her life re-evaluation. In most cases, these women wouldtend to establish and renew their worthy selves by coming up with agoal to recapture their lost youthful state, which may entailprocesses of divorcing, carrying out huge purchases, or simplyabandoning their old life and taking up a new life.
MidlifeCrisis and Issues of Aging Women
Issues of agingwomen mainly stem from the whole issue of a midlife crisis. From theprevious study done by Wethington (2000), the American participantsinterviewed largely agreed with sentiments from the articleresearched by Saucier (2004). The article focuses on the middle-agedwomen that are confronted with age issues such as perception of theirageism and thus becomes a societal concern. Most of these issues stemfrom the societal perception of aging women. These issues are alsoaccelerated by the midlife crisis for example, are stereotypicalviews of such women suffering from midlife crisis to be physicallyunattractive, less interested in sex, are depressed, intellectuallydull, and are frustrated.
These issues are accelerated by societal beliefs and theirperception. Social perspective for example largely impacts theiremotional well-being. When they are not doing well, these women willmost likely listen to the messages and negative jibes circulated bythe society and thus feel obsolete. According to Wethington (2000),individuals and their families tend to be intertwined with modernityand tradition, which result in ambivalence in women`s attitudestowards using knowledge and their rich experience to solve presentproblems. Issues arise whenever this happens, and thus women atmidlife feel undervalued. Issues with aging women also come withgender relations with members of the opposite sex.
At 40 years, these women are intertwined between fulfilling certaindreams and fighting the midlife crisis. Fighting midlife crisisinfluences access to essential resources, the shaping of life, andopportunities. In his article, Saucier (2004) observed that agingshould be associated with good health, social and economic security,and proper housing for dignity purposes. Additionally, issues ofaging are also associated with discrimination. Discrimination makesthe life of women a lot difficult considering their rights are morelikely to be violated by the society they live. Without properplanning, when these women are faced with financial constraints aspart of the midlife crisis, they are neglected because they areregarded to be no longer reproductively and economically useful.
DivorceTransitioning of Midlife Women
Having examinedissues of aging women, a higher percentage of midlife women arelikely to be divorced. The whole process, at that advanced age, canonly result in a process of divorce transitioning. Sakraida (2005)did a research study that focused on interviews with 24 divorcedwomen. The aim of the study was to identify and understand the wholeprocess of transition. A divorced woman at midlife is regarded as astressor, which is associated with social and economic adjustments.Divorce transitioning is characterized by many engagements that womenget involved with to get over the pain and disappointments ofmarriage. For instance, a lot of women intertwined in midlifeexperience are forced to regulate between the need to take care ofthe young, while trying to get over their divorce ordeals.
Divorcetransitioning is not easy. Transitioning comes with emotional turmoilas a result of divorce considering the spouses have to go through adivorce process. Divorce transitioning, according to the views from24 divorced women interview in the research conducted by Sakraida(2005), spoke of handling a series of uncertainties after divorce atmidlife. They spoke of fears about dealing with the unwarrantedburden of handling lawyers the entire time. Transitioning is marredwith a lot of fears named by over half of the women interviewed inthe study. Lyons & Griffin (2003) noted that women are apt to befearful of the financially destitute.
After the divorce, midlife women are more likely to value theirself-identity and their freedom, and that they would no longer haveto deal with another person. However, while there is a preference forthese midlife women to value freedom and self-identity, divorcetransitioning acts as a stressor. Over 50% of the 24 women interviewby Sakraida (2005) reported more stress levels, which was more thanusual and were difficult to bear. Increased level of depression alsocharacterized life after divorce at midlife. Divorce transitioningmay also be characterized by dating, but with the least number of thedivorcees admitting to having dated following their divorce.
Womenat Midlife and Menopause
Women atmidlife stage dread menopause, which can also be established to becrucially bewildering and complex stage of a woman. A closer study ofwomen changes at midlife is characterized by varying experiencesaccompanied by a difference in physical changes. There are alsoinstances of social and psychological trauma rather than opportunityand growth. According to Lyons & Griffin (2003), he definesmenopause as the final period of the menstrual circle. Sometimes,midlife changes in women fail to account for the expanding category,which includes experiences in diversity. For example, theestablishment of a theoretical framework narrowly focuses on theissues, which are presumed to be essential, for example, menopauseand body maintenance.
The midlifenotion, as part of the quest for the youth, is evident in the medicalliterature where the menopausal bodies of these midlife women arefrequently portrayed as deficient and failing (Saucier, 2004). Here,menopause appears to be regarded as an illness that requirestherapeutic intervention, for examples, such as anti-depressants,hormones replacement therapy, and changes in lifestyle. The wholeidea of menopause from the biomedical point of view is challenged byanthropological researchers and feminist sociologists that questionthe appropriateness and legitimacy of claims that consider thesewomen`s body states as deficient. Additionally, when the participantsin the study carried out by Sakraida (2005) were asked about what thewhole menopausal process at midlife meant to them, these women viewedas something to be ignored.
There areconnections between the previous section menopause, and developmentof women in midlife. Sakraida (2005) stand on menopause draws a lotof comparison with Lachman (2004). Bodily changes, as a result ofmenopause, draw a lot of relevance and are regarded as a multifacetedinvolvement of numerous positions. The issues of midlife facing womenare often worked on to towards finding a balance between workresponsibilities and family. During the process of finding areasonable balance, Lachman (2004) noted that there is instancewhereby these women at midlife undergo physical and psychologicalchanges which coincide with aging.
As part of thedevelopment of women at midlife, there are themes as documented bySaucier (2004) in his article, about midlife experiences, which sharesimilarities with other articles in this paper about incorporatingboth gains and losses. Women development in midlife encompasses aseries of balances that range from the well-being of individualsclose to middle-aged adults, for example, children or parents. In thelifespan of these women, total lifespan in the midlife period ischaracterized by complexity in the multiple roles interplay. Evenwith numerous challenges with respect to a midlife crisis, bodilychanges, and divorce as discussed above, salient issues emerge, whichdictate the process of women development in midlife. These salientissues emerge as part of balancing responsibilities at the center ofphysical and psychological difference from aging. Additionally, womendevelopment at midlife as a section called phenomenology, whichpresent expectations and images that include disparate views of womenat midlife.
The paperfocused on women and wildlife with the information drawn from variousarticles on the same. First, the paper attempted to define anddifferentiate "midlife" and "midlife crisis" inwomen, which in this regard, was defined as "the stage of lifebetween ages 45 and 64." Midlife crisis, on the other hand, wasconsidered to be as part of a transition targeted at exploringchanges in individual behavior, personality, and life orientation.The concept of a midlife crisis was used to provide the paper with abase with which to focus on women at midlife. One of the conceptscentered on the differences and impact of the midlife crisis andmidlife stressor. Other issues covered in the paper include theissues of midlife in women, aging, development in midlife, menopause,and divorce transitioning.
In conclusion,the paper showed that experiences faced by women at midlife arelargely contested even though the majority of issues at hand areagreed upon. The paper did not cover largely on the positives thatcome from midlife, which suggest that there is a need to come up withtheories in future research that would be in a better position toaccommodate both the positives and variety experiences. The currentmidlife conceptualizations, which are also inadvertently, promote andoveremphasize assumptions conforming to discourses by women ofremaining young forever. Additionally, from what had been covered inthe paper, future considerations should focus on drawing relevance inthe experiences of midlife without shunning the negatives of amidlife crisis.
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McQuaide, S.(1998). Women at Midlife. Social Work, 43, 1, 21-31.
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