Middle age is the next passage one for which we often are not very well

Middle age is the next passage one for which we often

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to its opposite, isolation? Middle age is the next passage, one for which we often are not very well prepared. A discrepancy between people’s self-image and their role expectations may occur. Successful navigation of this stage results in what Erikson calls generativity, the finding of meaning in life through our contributions to the lives of others. Failure to do so, on the other hand, leads to what Erikson sees as stagnation in feeling and pur- pose, which can lead to an old age of despair. In the final stages of life, one’s uncompleted tasks, regrets, and omissions “come home to roost.” Earlier joys, by the same token, are mag- nified in old age. Often one’s religious faith from childhood and a cherishing of the joys of the present moment provide a major source of strength, almost as compensation for losses in- curred through the ravages of time. This chapter, in short, has as its goal a delin- eation of the major tasks and risk factors of each of the Eriksonian stages of the adult life span. Case studies on life “in the middle of a middle” and Latino family care for elderly parents pro- vide moving narratives to supplement the text. p Intimacy Versus Isolation College is traditionally a time of transition and questioning of the beliefs of one’s upbringing. Education, which means a “leading out,” broad- ens students’ horizons and encourages critical thinking about practically everything. That is the academic side of college; on the social side, there is exposure to unchaperoned parties, binge drink- ing, and unbridled sexuality, for which the stu- dent may not be prepared. For devoutly religious youth of whatever spiritual faith, the task of fit- ting in and resisting temptation on a secular campus can be formidable. Faith tends to lapse. A national study conducted by the University of California–Los Angeles found that, of more than 100,000 first-year students surveyed, 79 percent professed a belief in God; 69 percent said they pray, 57 percent have questioned their faith, and 26 percent called themselves born-again Chris- tians (Astin, 2004). Compared to previous generations of college students, there is now both more binge drink- ing, coupled with more unplanned sexual ac- tivity in some circles, and a higher degree of religiosity in others. An earlier study on a smaller sample of third-year college students found that the undergraduates’ sense of well-being de- clined during the college years, with 40 percent of students reporting that they felt overwhelmed by the junior year, while more than half fre- quently felt depressed (Astin, 2004). Students who do not participate in religious activities are more than twice as likely to report poor mental health or depression as those who do partici- pate, according to the survey results. For all stu- dents, especially those who reside on campus, the challenge of dealing with the new freedoms can be enormous (Figure 5.1).
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