Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Midlife Metamorphosis

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Midlife Metamorphosis

Article excerpt

The study was conducted in response to the need for an increased understanding of the aging experiences of women transitioning midlife. The purpose of the research was to explore the personal understanding of the changes that occur during the midlife period. A qualitative case study was implemented to ascertain how women of the Latter-day Saint (LDS) faith experience the midlife transition. The narratives of 10 LDS women ages 35 to 65 were obtained through personal interviews. The data were analyzed from a feminist, social constructionist, and narrative perspective using Chenail's Qualitative Matrix as a formal coding system to guide the process of analysis and reporting (Cole, 1994). The findings indicate that the younger cohort had inner conflicts; those in the middle age cohort experienced role confusion; and the oldest cohort experienced generativity. These findings may suggest that a positive metamorphosis takes place in women during the midlife transition. Key Words: Midlife and Transition Qualitative Research

Background Context

Midlife transition is a complex developmental stage that presents changes and challenges for women; yet, the experience remains a relatively unexplored life phenomenon (Levinson, 1996). Male researchers (e.g., Erickson, 1982; Jung 1933/1983; Levinson; Yin, 2003) have been the primary investigators of women's midlife transition. Although systematic research related to the midlife transition began around 1985 (Shek, 1996), the research community has "lagged behind with little research into midlife women's psychological, physical, or spiritual development" (Banister, 1999. p. 520). Despite the increasing numbers of aging women, quality research on the midlife transition is scant (Quinn & Walsh, 1995). The available literature regarding midlife women may contain ageist, sexist, and biased perspectives. Some studies provide "inconsistent, inaccurate, even contradictory, information" (Banister, 2000, p. 746). The investigative focus has been on its negative aspects, such as menopausal physical symptoms or midlife psychological effects (Lippert, 1997). Others have not been of much value in understanding the midlife passage of women because of methodological problems as well as the diminutive scientific base (Huffman & Meyers, 1999; Lippert; Woods & Mitchell, 1997).

Social Problem

Women in the midst of the midlife transition comprise a significant segment of the North American population. The Baby Boomers (i.e., people born in the 10-year span following World War II) have expanded the age structure of the population and changed the age distribution of the female structure of the population (Morgan, 1998). Huston and Lanka (1997) suggested that the Boomer cohorts are "entering and completing their transitional years at the rate of two million women per year" (p. 5). Banister (1999) anticipated a further increase of midlife women as the "peak number of baby boomers reaches the age of 50" (p. 520). Not only is the growing numbers of baby boom women in the midlife transition a social phenomenon (Morgan), but also as women's life span increases, the midlife passage is extending congruously (Sheehy, 1995). Subsequently, the midlife years constitute a bonus stage to the life cycle. Therefore, contemporary women are pioneers in a new passage of time. They have no past generations of women as role models. As a result, the midlife transition of women remains uncharted territory.

Midlife Transition

Midlife is a stage that brings transitions in the course of a woman's development (Banister, 2000). Transitions include menopausal change, physical aging, and role changes such as children leaving home and dependent elderly parents. Midlife women may also be at risk for life events such as separation and divorce. Until recently, midlife transition was considered a time of crisis (Banister, 2000). The term midlife crisis has its roots in work by Jaques (65) who found that perspective of time changes to "time left to live" as individuals reach midlife (Shek, 1996). …

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