CHAPTER XII MIDDLE AGE: VOCATIONAL AND FAMILY ADJUSTMENTS

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CHAPTER XII MIDDLE AGE: VOCATIONAL AND FAMILY ADJUSTMENTS.

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OBJECTIVES:. After reading this chapter, you should able to: Understand that vocational adjustment problems affect middle-aged women as well as middle-aged men, and recognize some of the changed work conditions that contribute to these problems Describe some of the factors influencing vocational adjustment in middle age and know the criteria used to assess vocational adjustments at this age. Explain the impact of the "empty nest" on family patterns in middle age and point out the types of adjustment problems this change gives rise to. Describe the problems single men and women face in middle age as well as the common vocational and marital hazards of middle age. Assess the adjustments men and women make to middle age. Demonstrate why preparation duri n g middle ag e for the next stage in the life span eases some of the adjustment problems that are inevitable in old age..

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Adjustments that center around work and the family are even more difficult in middle age than personal and social adjustments. Establishing and maintaining a comfortable standard of living, for example, has become increasingly difficult in recent years. As a result of increased use of automation and because of the trend toward merging small companies with larger ones, many middle-aged persons are thrown out of work. They may find that the jobs for which their training and experience have fitted them no longer exist and that they lack the training and experience for jobs that do exist; thus.

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Many middle-aged men and women find it difficult to relate to their spouses as persons, as they did during the days of courtship and early marriage, after having played the role of coparent for many years while their children were growing up. This adds to the stresses many middle-aged people experience and militates against good personal and social adjustments . While far from universal, problems of single hood, divorce, and widowhood plague many middle-aged men and women. As is true in the years of early adulthood, these adjustments interfere with the per sonal and social lives of the middle-aged and complicate other adjustments they must make at this time. For many middle-aged men and women, perhaps the most difficult adjustment they must make is to the care of aged parents. After years of freedom from responsibility for them, having to take over responsibility for them just at a time in their lives when they must face many personal, vocational, and social adjustments makes the situation doubly burdensome..

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For many men, adjustment problems arising in relation to work are the most serious while, for women, those involving family relationships are the hardest to cope with. For women who carry jobs in addition to home responsibilities, family-relationship problems are usually intensified. In addition to these areas of adjustment, the middle-aged person is faced with a totally new problem, that of adjusting to impending old age. Like all adjustments for which the individual has had no previous experience, this one is often difficult and gives rise to strong emotional tension..

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01. VOCATIONAL ADJUSTMENTS.

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In the past, as has been pointed out before, relatively few people lived to middle age, and even fewer were vocationally active during this entire period. Further more, changes in vocational patterns and in working conditions took place at a much slower rate than they do now. Thus relatively few workers were affected by such changes, and those who were affected suffered only slightly..

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abstract. abstract. Because of the radical changes that have taken place in all aspects of American life since World War II, the vocational adjustments of middle-aged men and women are complicated by a number of new conditions in the working environment..

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abstract. 2. Hiring Policies - Because of the widespread belief that maximum productivity can be achieved by hiring and train ing younger workers and because employers want to spend the minimum amount for retirement pensions, middle-aged workers have greater difficulty getting jobs than younger ones, although this varies for different kinds of work. Thus changing jobs becomes increasingly more hazardous with each passing year. 3. Increased Use of Automation - Automated work requires a higher level of intelligence, more training, and greater speed than work that is not automated. This has an adverse effect on middle-aged men and women of lower levels of intelligence, with training for specific lines of work only, or whose health causes them to work more slowly than younger workers..

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abstract. 4. Group Work - Training in the home, neighborhood, and school puts more stress on social adjustments now than in the past, thus younger workers can usually get along better with their superiors and coworkers than can middle-aged workers. 5. Role of the Wife - As the man becomes more successful, the wife must act as a sounding board for his business problems, she must be an asset to him at social functions related to his work, and she must be come active in community affairs. 6.Compulsory Retirement - With compulsory retirement now coming in the mid- to late sixties, the chances of promotion after fifty are slim, and the chances of getting a new job are even slimmer, except at a lower level and with lower pay..

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abstract. 7. Dominance of Big Business - Many small business and industrial organizations are now being taken over by bigger ones. Middle-aged workers whose companies merge with others may find that there is no place for them in the new organizations or that their jobs are on lower levels than before. This is especially true of jobs in the managerial level. 8. Relocation - With the consolidation of small businesses into big corporations, many workers are forced to relocate as factories and offices are moved near the parent company. Middle-aged workers who must move in order to keep their jobs often have more difficulty in adjusting to the new location than younger workers have. Furthermore, such moves tend to be traumatic experiences for middle-aged wives and teenage children..

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Now that ever-increasing numbers of women are entering the work world during middle age, vocational adjustment problems are no longer experienced mainly by men. Women have many of the same problems men do and also many that are unique to themselves..

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Vocational instability in the early forties stems from a number of causes, the most important of which are the general restlessness characteristic of this period of life; the ending of responsibility for the support of the children, which frees the worker from a burden he has carried for many years; and the realization that if he wants to change jobs, he must do it now or never. As the number of middle-aged women in the professions, business, and industry increases, so do their adjustment problems. One of the major problems involves full equality with men in terms of hiring promotion, and salary. Most women, regardless of their training and ability, find it more difficult to get jobs and to be.

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abstract. Good vocational adjustment in early adulthood will not necessarily guarantee the same in middle age because the conditions contributing to good adjust ment at one age often differ from those at another..

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abstract. 2. Opportunities for Promotion - Each year, as workers approach the age of compulsory retirement, their chances for promotion grow slighter and they are likely to be pushed aside to make way for younger workers. This has an adverse effect on vocational adjustments. 3. Vocational Expectations - As retirement becomes imminent, middle-aged workers assess their achievements in light of earlier aspirations. This assessment, whether favorable or unfavorable, has a profound effect on vocational adjustments. 4. Increased Use of Automation - Certain aspects of automation militate against good vocational on the part of middle-aged workers, such as boredom and lack of pride in their work, the possibility of losing their jobs to younger workers, increased speed required on the job, which makes many older workers nervous, and an unwillingness to retrain because of the imminence of retirement..

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abstract. 5. Attitude of Spouse - If a wife is dissatisfied with her husband's status at work, his pay, or the fact that his work takes him away from home and she is lonely-now that the children are grown-the husband too may be come dissatisfied. Women whose husbands object to their working and constantly complain about their being out of the home may also experience job dissatisfaction. 6. Attitude toward "Big Business" - Workers who take pride in being associated with big, prestigious companies will make better adjustments to their work than those who regard themselves merely as little cogs in big machines..

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abstract. 7. Attitudes toward Coworkers - Middle-aged workers who resent the treatment they receive from their superiors or their subordinates and who regard younger workers as shiftless and careless will have less favorable attitudes toward their work than those who are on friendlier terms with their coworkers. 8. Relocation - How workers feel about moving to another community in order to keep their present jobs or be promoted to better ones will a profound influence on their vocational adjustments..

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Vocational adjustment in middle age, like that in early adulthood, can be assessed in terms of the success men and women achieve in their work and the degree of satisfaction they derive from it. Unless both of these conditions are taken into consideration, an assessment of their vocational adjustments will not be accurate..

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Women, far more often than men, fail to achieve the vocational success they are capable of during middle age. This is just as true of women who have worked continuously since they finished their education as of women who left their jobs after they were married and then returned to work after their home and parental duties diminished. This failure is due not to lack of ability and training but to prejudice against women in positions of responsibility. * Satisfaction — Among industrial workers, the forties are the critical age" for job satisfaction. This age comes slightly later for workers in business and the professions. By the end of the fifties and early sixties, there is usually a sharp drop in vocational satisfaction..

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days until the older men retire and they can take their places. None of these factors contributes to job satisfaction . Middle-aged women, even more than men, fail to derive the satisfaction they should from their work. And, like men, their dissatisfaction increases with each passing year until they welcome the compulsory retirement age. Their dissatisfaction is due to many of the same factors that cause dissatisfaction in men, but it is intensified by their resentment at not being given equal opportunities for advancement when their abilities justify it. Members of minority groups, both men and women, also experience job dissatisfaction for this reason..

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. CONDITIONS CONTRIBUTING TO VOCATIONAL SATISFACTION IN MIDDLE AGE Achievement near achievement of a vocational goal set earlier. Satisfaction on the part of family members, especially the spouse, with the worker's vocational achievements. Opportunities for self-actualization on the job. Congenial relationships with coworkers.Satisfaction with treatment from management and direct superiors. Satisfaction with the provisions made by management for illness, vacations, disability, retirement, and other fringe benefits. Feelings of security about the job. Not being forced to relocate to hold a job, advance in it, or get a new job..

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0 2. ADJUSTMENT TO CHANGED FAMILY PATTERNS.

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The pattern of family life undergoes marked changes during the period of middle age. As Cavan has pointed out, "The most obvious change is the withdrawal of children from the family, leaving husband and wife as the family unit". This change is usually more difficult for women to adjust to than for men because women's lives are centered around the home and family members during the early adult years. Then, during the "shrinking circle stage," as Lopata has called it, the middle-aged housewife no longer derives all her satisfaction and prestige from her roles as wife and mother, and the replacements she finds for these roles, whether as a worker outside the home or as a participant in community activities, are rarely as satisfying..

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abstract. . 1. Physical Changes - The physical and psychological disturbances that accompany the menopause and the male climacteric often intensify the other adjustment problems of middle age which, in turn, heighten these physical and psychological disturbances. 2. Loss of Parental Role - Like all habits, that of centering one's life around one's home and children is hard to break. Middle-aged people who are able to occupy their time with activities they find satisfying will be able to adjust to the loss of the parental role..

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. 3. Lack of Preparation - While most middle-aged people are prepared for the physical changes that accompany middle age, few are prepared for the role changes that take place in both their family and vocational lives. See Figure 12-2. Adjustment problems are greatly in tensified if role changes and physical changes occur simultaneously. 4. Feelings of Failure - Middle-aged people whose marriages have not turned out as they had hoped, or whose children have not come up to their expectations, often blame themselves and feel that they have been failures. 5. Feelings of Uselessness - The more child-centered the home was earlier, the more useless the middle-aged person will feel when parental responsibilities diminish or come to an end..

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. 6. Disenchantment with Marriage - Disenchantment with marriage is often caused or intensified by unforeseen changes in the marital situation, such as the husband's loss of a job or lack of success or the failure of children to come up to parental expectations. 7. Care of Elderly Relatives -Most middle-aged people resent having to care for an elderly relative because they do not want to be tied down, as they were when their children were young, and because they fear that strained relationships with the spouse or adolescent children will result..

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Some of these factors affect men and women differently, and some are more important early in middle age than later. For example, because the woman has had to center her interests mainly around the home, her habit of being family-oriented is more firmly fixed than her husband's and is more difficult to break in middle age. Also, the impact of the menopause occurs earlier and more suddenly than the impact of the male climacteric, and women must make a more radical adjustment to the physical and psychological changes that accompany loss of the reproductive function..

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Finally, men and women become disenchanted with marriage for different reasons. The man may be disenchanted with his marriage if he feels that his lack of vocational success is the result of the strains of family life or the unfavorable attitudes of family members toward his work. A woman is more likely to become disenchanted with marriage if she feels useless now that her maternal responsibilities have lessened or are over or if she feels that her husband is more concerned about his work than about his home and family. Thus, in the case of both men and women during middle age, disenchantment with marriage is due more to conditions within the family than to the relationship between husband and wife, though this tends to intensify the effects of changed family patterns. Some of the adjustment problems that middle -a ged men and women must face in their family lives are individual in nature while others are more or less universal and a product of the culture in which the person lives. The most important of these are discussed below..

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When the children leave home—to go to college, to marry, or to pursue a career—parents must face the adjustment problems of what is commonly referred to as the period of the "empty nest". In many homes, this period is almost as long as the whole period during which the children were living in the home. When the empty nest period occurs, it means a change of roles for both parents and a branching out from the family which, in most cases, is more difficult for women than for men..

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Role changes necessitated by the empty nest period of family life affect women far more than men though men are not spared the effects of these role changes. According to tradition, the empty nest is a traumatic and unhappy period in life for the typical woman, though far less so for the typical man. According to evidence, the empty nest is far from universally an unhappy period in the lives of middle-aged men and women, As Campbell has put it, "Raising a family seems to be one of those tasks, like losing weight or waxing the car, that is less fun to be doing than to have done"..

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The results lend further credence to prior studies in dicating that the empty nest is not a particularly stressful period in most women's lives and hence is not a major source of threats to psychological and physical well-being. The only threat to well-being is having a child who does not become successfully independent when it is expected. The difficulties of adjusting to the departure of children from the home and to the role changes that this necessitates are increased for parents who have few outside interests and have built their lives around their children. Overly protective and possessive parents are especially prone to make their children the center of their lives..

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With the ending of parental responsibilities, the husband and wife once again become dependent upon each other for companionship. Whether they will adjust successfully to this charged pattern of family relationships is greatly influenced by how well adjusted they were when parental roles took pręcedence over husband-wife roles..

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There is s ample evidence that sex is as important to marital satisfaction in middle-age today as it is in early adulthood (18,58,84). As Figure 12-3 shows, there is a sharp rise in sexual satisfaction in the post parental years after low points during the years of school-aged and teen-aged children. As children begin to leave home—the "launching stage"—sexual satisfaction between the parents increases ..

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1. First, one of the major causes of poor sexual adjustment in middle age is differences in the sex drive at this time. Studies of the pattern of development of the sex drive have shown that the male's sex drive is stronger in adolescence and reaches its peak earlier than the female's sex drive. The woman's sex drive and interest in sex, by contrast, become stronger as she approaches middle age. The fact that husband and wife are at different stages of development of the.

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3. Third, during the forties and early fifties, many women lose their earlier inhibitions and develop more interest in sex. Because this occurs at the time when the man's interest in sex is declining, middle-aged women may be sexually unsatisfied and unhappy. 4. Fourth, some middle-aged women, knowing that it is their last chance, decide to have a child. This often complicates their adjustments to their husbands, who may not want a baby now that they have won freedom from their parental responsibilities or who maybe embarrassed at having a baby the age of their grandchildren..

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EFFECTS OF GOOD SEXUAL ADJUSTMENT. — In spite of the difficulties involved, there is evidence that many middle-aged men and women make satisfactory sexual adjustments. As may be seen in Figure 12 3, after a drop in sexual interest during early adulthood when the children are young, satisfaction increases as the children grow up and begin to leave home. A woman's decline in satisfaction from sex during middle age is due primarily to the attitude and behavior of her husband. By contrast, a man's lessening of sexual satisfaction may be due more to conditions within himself than to those related to his wife or his home life..

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While adjusting to in-laws is one of the major adjustment of young adults, there are two new kinds of in-law adjustments that must be made during middle age. These are, first , adjustments to children's spouses and, second , adjustments to the care of aging parents..

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abstract. . 1. Short courtships that give parents little time to get to know their future in-laws or their families. 2. Spouses from other communities, states, or even countries. This deprives both sets of parents of opportunities to get to know their future in-laws before marriage. 3. Few parents of today are consulted about their children's choice of spouse: they often consider the choice "unsuitable." 4. The expectation on the part of the middle-aged couple that they will continue to have the same relationship with their children that existed before marriage and that their relationship with a son- or daughter-in-law will be the same as their relationship with their own children ..

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. 5. The necessity for married children to live with their parents or in-laws. 6. The tendency of the middle-aged couple to offer too much advice to a son- or daughter in-law. 7. Dissimilarity of sociocultural background of in-laws, leading to criticisms and strained re lationships. 8. Elopement, which leads to parental embarrassment and resentment. 9. Disapproval of spouse because of willingness to cohabit for a year or more before marriage. 10. Disapproval because marriage was forced due to premarital pregnancy. 11. Residential propinquity, which encourages frequent contacts and parental overprotectiveness and interference. 12. Psychological dependency of a married daughter on her parents, which may make her husband resent them. 13. A lack of grandchildren, which may be a dis appointment to the middle-aged parents and which may also give the married children more independence and thus cause them to neglect their parents, which adds to parental resentment. 14. Disapproval of son-in-law's occupation or that daughter-in-law works after marriage..

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— However, when circumstances are such that aging parents must be cared for by their children, the problem is far more complicated today than in the past because the typical family of today is the nuclear family-parents and children. When aging parents, for whatever reason, must be cared for in the homes, of their children, the most important conditions influencing the middle-aged child's adjustment to this problem are given in Box 12-6..

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. abstract. 3. Degree of Responsibility - Many middle-aged people become resentful if the care of elderly parents represents a heavy financial burden or greatly restricts their activities. 4. Relationship of Aging Parent to Middle-aged Person -Although both husbands and wives are more resentful about caring for an in-law than a parent, the wife is especially resentful because she has the major responsibility for this care..

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. 5. Role Played by Elderly Parents -When elderly parents are physically able to help with household chores and do not disrupt the family routine, the adjustment will be better than if they expect to be waited on or if they interfere in the lives of other family members. 6. Sex of Elderly Parent - Regardless of whose home the elderly parent lives in, men cause less work and interfere less than women. 7. Earlier Experiences with Elderly Parent - Middle-aged people whose earlier experiences with their own parents or with their parents-in-law have been favorable make far better adjustments to the care of these relatives than those whose earlier experiences have been unfavorable..

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abstract. - Middle-aged persons who carry the burden of parent care are often deprived of opportunities to develop new interests and to engage in social activities outside the home. While caring for an elderly parent may help fill the gap created when children leave home, the satisfaction derived from this companionship may be far from adequate and may even intensify parental loneliness..

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With the present trend toward early marriage, many men and women today become grandparents before middle age ends. In fact, some men and women become grandparents before middle age begins. Grandparents as a group play less important roles in the lives of their children and grandchildren than they did in the past..

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. abstract. - The "fun-seeking" grandparental role is character ized by informality and playfulness; the grandparent tries to be a "pal" to the grandchild. (Suzanne Szasz.) 3. The Surrogate-Parent Role - The grandparents assume responsibility for the care of grandchildren in the event of divorce or the death of a parent, if the mother must work outside the home, or when the parents want to take a short vacation from the children. Usually the grandmother is more active in this role..

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abstract. The older the grandchildren, the more trying most grandparents find them after a short time. Consequently, middle-aged people prefer shorter contacts with their grandchil dren and fewer responsibilities (72,82,89). As grandchildren approach the teens, their relationships with their grandparents tend to worsen, partly because they often have intolerant attitudes toward middle aged and elderly people and partly because grand parents frequently disapprove of the dress, grooming, and behavior of today's teenagers..

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