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Chapter 11:
Adulthood: Relationships and Roles

Early and Middle Adulthood
This unit on early and middle adulthood covers late 20s to mid-60s – the longest period in lifespan development.

Chapter 11: “Relationships & Roles” – marriage, parenthood, work
Chapter 12: “Midlife” – changes in personality and cognitive functioning over the adult years; midlife issues such as grandparenting & caring for elderly parents
The Changing Landscape of Marriage
Marriage historically:
Before 20th century: Marriage was often based on practical concerns.
Arranged by families without any thought of “love”
Shorter life span meant much shorter marriages
Early part of 20th century, medical advances & longer lives
Western society idea of marriage for love
Should be soul mates for 50 years or more
The Changing Landscape of Marriage

Mid 20th century Western ideal: Enduring marriages with traditional sex roles the norm (see photo)
9 of 10 husbands were primary breadwinners
Strong sanctions against divorce
Late 20th century : Women’s movement
Women can have careers.
Fathers should be involved in child care.
Late 20th century: personal fulfillment
Shouldn’t stay in unhappy marriage
The State of Marriage in the U.S. Today
Marriage is “deinstitutionalized”
Marriage transformed from an “institution” to an option
Some of the results:
Divorce rate from 14% in 1970 to 50% today
Rise in single parents (from 9% to 40%)
Decline in married-couple households (71% to 53%)
Rise in cohabitation and people living alone
Scanning the Global Marriage Scene: Incredible Variability
The Middle East: Male-dominated marriage
Women do not have equal status with men.
Traditional gender roles are more rigidly enforced.
Cohabitation and other “modern” Western arrangements are severely condemned.
Northern Europe: Marriage doesn’t matter
It’s fine to have babies outside of marriage or to cohabit without ever getting wed.
Marriage is just one option among a number of equally acceptable choices.

Married and Cohabiting Couples Aged 30-39, selected EU countries:
The U. S.: Dreaming of Marriage for Life
Idealistic about marriage, realistic about (economic) foundations necessary.
Still as interested in marriage as ever, see as ideal
But more careful, may put off until established
High non-marriage rates among low income adults is partly due to economic barriers, also homogamy.
Marriage as a badge of achievement
Both getting married and staying married

The U-Shaped Curve of Marital Satisfaction

Happiness is at its peak during the honeymoon.

Satisfaction rapidly slopes downward, and then tends to decline more slowly or level out around year 4.
Main divorce danger zone
Working model phase of relationship

Happiness increases when children leave.

Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love

Adult love relationships have 3 components:
Passion: sexual arousal
Intimacy: feelings of closeness
Commitment: marriage or exclusive, lifelong cohabitating relationships
By combining these facets we get the different love relationships in life.
Consummate love for life is our ideal, but over time marital passion and even intimacy tend to wane.

Keeping Passion and Intimacy Alive
Understand the time course of love (see Sternberg’s theory) and realize that keeping passion and intimacy takes work.
Regularly engage in exciting activities that both partners enjoy.
Sources of Marital Satisfaction
Spouse as “best friend”
Like the spouse as a person
Shared goals in life
Satisfying sexual relationship
Marital Communications
Couples at risk for divorce:
Have a higher ratio of negative to positive comments (less than than 5 +’s to –’s spells trouble.)
Get personally hurtful when they fight (Attack the person rather than the problem)
Engage in repeated demand-withdrawal interactions (One person wants to talk things out; the other withdraws)
Exhibit the “4 horsemen” of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling

Communal vs. Exchange Models
Communal model of love:
An ideal approach to love relationships in which the partners give everything without expecting anything in return
Good long-term relationships are unconcerned with short-term equity and are characterized by generosity & sacrifice, BUT equity must be maintained over the long term.
Securely attached couples work hard to re-establish synchrony when there are problems.
Exchange model of love:
An unsatisfying approach to love relationships in which the partners attempt to “keep score” and give to the other person only when the partner gives to them
Divorce: A Process, Not an Event
Predivorce phase
Unhappy, but ambivalent—should we split up?
May be as stressful as the parting itself
Affair-symptom of the problems, but may increase them
Separation phase
Overload of real world changes –moving, needing to find a job, legal issues
Issues relating to other attachments: Will my friends still be friends? How do we explain things to the children?
Long-term impact
Stress ultimately diminishes as adjustment occurs
Single parenting &/or continual battles over the children can make divorce a “chronic stressor.”
Can bring relief, enhanced self-efficacy, emotional growth, as well as hurt and regrets
Men, Women, and Divorce
Issues for women:
A loss in income – hits women hardest
The stresses of single parenthood
At some stages seen as important for emotional growth, at others as a necessity because of husband’s problems

Issues for men:
Since moms typically receive custody of the kids, the heartache of being “visitor fathers”
The result: men may give up and disengage from their children and form new families.

The Changing Context of Parenthood
More possibilities to enjoy this pivotal life-role for a huge variety of non-traditional families

The freedom to choose not to be parents

There is no evidence that people who don’t want children are narcissistic or unhappy. Parenthood is not NECESSARY for a fulfilling life.
Fertility (Family Size) in the Developed World
The problem: Fertility rates are well below the population replacement level in many developed world nations (see the next slide).
Because people are waiting longer to get married
Because of economic concerns. The fertility issue is especially acute in developed world countries with poor economies (e.g. Russia)
Result: much anxiety about the aging of the population; and government efforts to encourage more births (Since the publication of this book, for instance, Russia has begun giving economic incentives to couples who have more children.)
Notice the differences from nation to nation
The Transition to Parenthood
Longitudinal studies of couples’ relationships show:

After having children spouses get less intimate and romantic. (Feel more like “fellow workers”)
Parenthood tends to produce more traditional marital roles (Resulting in possible marital equity issues if both spouses work full time).
Great variability in how couples cope— most do get slightly less happy, but for others satisfaction improves.
Having a good prior relationship is key to adjusting well, as is agreement on the division of labor.

NEVER have a baby to save an unhappy marriage.

Motherhood Findings
Mothers with young children report the lowest day-to-day levels of happiness (compared to childless and empty-nest women). WHY?

Some possible reasons relate to performance pressure:
Society’s unrealistic expectations of motherhood: infinitely patient and loving, able to do everything necessary to produce the perfect child
Mothers’ disappointment in themselves for failing to be the “ideal” mother
Closeness to (love for?) children varies in real life.
Motherhood has enormous highs and lows; each day is different.
Motherhood Findings
What about the popular idea that today’s working mothers are not giving children the attention they need – and received in “the good old days”?
Comparisons of reports of mothers’ activities over the past 40 years show just the opposite.
Despite the fact that the average US working mother (incl. part-time workers) clocks 39 hours per week at work
Single mothers work on average 42 hours but spend just as much time as married mothers
Minutes Per Day Devoted to Child Care by Mothers, in Different Decades
What about fathers?
Societal views about fathers’ involvement have changed enormously in the past 40 years.

Parenting behavior:
On average spend more time with sons than daughters
Play in classically “male” rough-and-tumble ways
Hands-on nurturing:
Enormous changes in the past 40 years
Still lag behind mothers in amount of care provided
Unclear who has “bottom-line” responsibility (i.e., call a sitter, make a doctor’s appt, register for school)

Variations in Fathers’ Involvement
Tremendous diversity these days in amount & type of involvement by fathers

Determinants of his role:
In 2-parent families, clues to father’s role come from his gender-role beliefs
Other demands on family’s life also important
Wife’s attitude: she can be a gatekeeper
Work Changes
Dramatic decline in traditional stable careers (working for the same company until retirement) and a rise in boundaryless careers (job changes and career shifts during working lives)

Boundaryless careers do offer the chance for more flexibility, but their dominance is also due to greater U.S. job insecurity. Having a secure job for life in a big company is a thing of the past.

Workers are working harder than ever today. The typical U.S. worker works 49 hours. Technology actually may operate to increase the hours we are working; as does competition with our peers.

A rise in non-traditional work hours. Many workers don’t mind this as it may help them juggle the demands of their family lives with their partner.
Women and Work
Women have less continuous careers than men. They are more prone to move in and out of the workforce due to care-giving responsibilities.

Occupational segregation is still the norm. Women are found in stereotypically female careers such as day care worker or secretary. (Also, they are less likely to advance to higher managerial positions.)

Full time female workers still earn less than their male counterparts. (The reasons for these pay disparities are probably due to a variety of forces…not just discrimination.)
CONCLUSION: Women- especially single women- are more likely to be poor.
Donald Super’s Lifespan Theory of Careers
4 stages to our work lives:
Moratorium – (Emerging adulthood) deciding on our career identity
Establishment – (20s through 40s) Working hard to advance at a job
Maintenance – (50s-early 60s) at our career peak; focus on mentoring the next generation.
Decline – (65+) disengage from our career

Recent findings still fit our general attitudes with one interesting 21st century difference. Fewer male workers in their 20s and 30s (only 1 in 2) report being interested in career advancement; perhaps because they feel they are already working too many hours.

Career Happiness: Depends on Two Forces
Finding a career that fits your personality
Finding a workplace that offers:
Intrinsic career rewards—Most workers want work that offers inner fulfillment.
Extrinsic career rewards—external reinforcements like prestige and salary; less important, but still desired

Forces that impair intrinsic satisfaction:
Role overload= having too much to do at work
Role conflict= being torn between job demands and the demands of other roles, such as family

Finding a career that fits your personality
Three Types of Workers

Work-centric– puts job over family
Dual-centric– family and job are equally important
Family-centric– prioritizes family life above job

Interesting Findings
1) Most younger workers rank themselves as dual-centric or family-centric.
2) Dual-centric and family-centric workers are happier, more productive employees.
Interventions to Reduce Role Overload and Role Conflict
Minimize interruptions at work.
Finish one task before starting another.
Employ stress management strategies.
Build in some barriers between work and home life.

Provide a distraction free environment (with few interruptions).
Resist micromanaging and let staff be creative.
Offer a really family-friendly work setting.
Try not to overwork employees.
Social Policy Issues