Male Midlife Crisis

Researchers have defined male midlife crisis as "personal turmoil and coping challenges in people brought on by fears and anxieties about growing older."

Many men will experience an emotional transition known as male midlife crisis. Men who show symptoms of this condition generally are between the ages of 45 and 60, but men as young as 40 can also experience male midlife crisis. Psychologist Carl Jung was the first to identify this condition in the aging process. During these years many men who suffer from this condition show a wide array of symptoms.

Starting at 45, men are susceptible to this condition especially if they have had a transition in their life or they have experienced something traumatic. The good news is that most men can deal with this process without making any major changes to their lifestyles. For others it becomes more complicated.

Men who suffer from a more serious kind of midlife crisis must be very careful not to let their emotions overwhelm them. There are various symptoms that range from mild to severe, some of them being unhappiness with their lifestyle, doubt, anger, confusion, questioning, depression and anxiety. Men who were once happy with their lives all of a sudden feel a certain discontent. What had made them happy before does not work anymore. Now they feel a need to change something, but they often have problems figuring out what to change.

People first began to take interest in the stages of life in the 18th century; however, the focus was mainly on adolescence. A groundbreaking study was conducted in 1971 that produced some interesting findings on male midlife crisis. Since that time theories and institutions have emerged to deal with problems that come up between childhood and adulthood.

Middle age first became a subject of intrigue in the latter part of the 20th century. In the 1970s an explosion of interest lead to research and theories on the subject. Popular literature is dedicated to dealing with the needs of middle age. Many books and self-help guides have also been written on the subject.

The study mentioned above compared men in their late 20s to men in their late 30s and early 40s. The study was interesting because the men who organized it also became active participants in the study. They experienced at first hand the feelings and emotions of what the group was going through.

A model was created where four different types of men and their experiences were studied. The model focused on the men's psychological characteristics and their life circumstances. Three hundred men entering middle age were compared to 150 men in their late 20s. Scales were used to measure attitude, behavior, defenses and the state of their psychological and physical health. Twenty men (five from each group) were selected for scrutinized interviews. In order to get the fullest and most accurate picture of the men, their families were interviewed as well. The results of the test surprised the researchers.

Although the men did undergo hardships associated with the aging process, there was no universal evidence of midlife crisis. Some men were considered to be in a state of crisis while others seemed not only not to be in a state of crisis, but to be thriving. However, the most typical response observed was to ignore and deny the pressures associated with the aging process.

The impact of family relations also had an effect on the experiences of men closing in on middle age. Previous studies on the importance of work in male development were proven to be a popular myth. The family was the most significant factor determining the midlife experiences of the subjects. One of the things found to change emotions was the relationship of the men with their wives and children. They can either help him or hurt him depending on their support or lack of it. The wife and children are seen as either supporters or discouragers of his avoidance of midlife issues.

Certain factors were found to contribute to the disruption of the men who experienced midlife crisis. The crisis is best described as a certain kind of alienation from the lifestyle which, up until middle age, had made them happy. Psychological problems developed from not being able to understand feelings of anxiety and depression. The crisis did not always trigger a search for more self meaning. The data revealed that a man's response to midlife crisis is directly related to personality, history and life circumstances. Men who had the highest status, income and education were the ones who dealt best with the transition into middle age. They were the ones who had the most positive feelings.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Men at Midlife
Michael P. Farrell; Stanley D. Rosenberg.
Auburn House, 1981
Men in the Middle: Coping with the Problems of Work & Family in the Lives of Middle-Aged Men
Peter Filene.
Prentice-Hall, 1981
Facing the Fifties: From Denial to Reflection
Peter A. O'Connor.
Allen & Unwin, 2000
The Essential Other: A Developmental Psychology of the Self
Robert M. Galatzer-Levy; Bertram J. Cohler.
Basic Books, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Midlife"
Americans at Midlife: Caught between Generations
Rosalie G. Genovese.
Bergin & Garvey, 1997
Mid-Life Issues and the Workplace of the 90s: A Guide for Human Resource Specialists
Shirley A. Waskel.
Quorum Books, 1991
The Third Career: Revisiting the Home vs. Work Choice in Middle Age
Milica Z. Bookman.
Praeger Publishers, 2000
The Sandwich Generation: Caught between Growing Children and Aging Parents
H. Michael Zal.
Insight Books, 1992
Measuring up: The Performance Ethic in American Culture
James M. Mannon.
Westview Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "The Measured Self in the Middle Years"
Can Personality Change?
Todd F. Heatherton; Joel L. Weinberger.
American Psychological Association, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Does Thought Content Change as Individuals Age? A Longitudinal Study of Midlife Adults"
The Third Age: Six Principles of Growth and Renewal after Forty
William A. Sadler.
Perseus Books, 2000
Psychosexual and Psychosocial Aspects of Male Aging and Sexual Health
Metz, Michael E.; Miner, Michael H.
The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Vol. 7, No. 3, Fall 1998
Adult Development
Susan Krauss Whitbourne; Comilda S. Weinstock.
Praeger Publishers, 1986 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Personality Development in Middle Adulthood"
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