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Cognitive, Personality, and Social Development in Middle Adulthood.

For the most part I agree with the theories and research regarding cognitive changes in adulthood (Schaie, 1994, Horn & Cattell, 1996, and Baltes, 2006).  Researchers have examined how growth, maintenance, and regulation of loss operate in the life span architecture of biology and culture, and the way that fluid intelligence (or cognitive mechanics) tends […]

For the most part I agree with the theories and research regarding cognitive changes in adulthood (Schaie, 1994, Horn & Cattell, 1996, and Baltes, 2006).  Researchers have examined how growth, maintenance, and regulation of loss operate in the life span architecture of biology and culture, and the way that fluid intelligence (or cognitive mechanics) tends to decline especially later in adulthood, whereas crystallized intelligence (or cognitive pragmatics) stays with us and often improves, due to experience. I think that many of us have probably witnessed this firsthand with our parents, grandparents, and even ourselves. I even notice a big difference in my fluid intelligence capacity as I approach 40 (It was quite evident when I wrote the GRE last year as well). I also find myself already applying the compensatory strategies so that I allocate more time to complete my readings and assignments in graduate school. It seems that what I could have completed in a couple of hours during my undergraduate work, takes much, much longer these days. I think it will be especially important to apply the theories of Baltes to our aging adults, especially since our life span is increasing. Broderick and Blewitt (2010) note that as adulthood proceeds, the more cultural scaffolds that exist, the more likely the individual will adapt well (p. 418). Incidentally, I think that the history-graded changes in terms of cohort effects definitely affect how we examine changes in adulthood and should be closely considered before drawing conclusions when conducting research.

I agree with the trait theory of McCrae and Costa (1999), who imply that traits are biologically based tendencies that influence thoughts, feelings and behavior across the life span (as cited in Broderick & Blewitt, 2010). For the most part, I think that personality traits are quite stable over the lifespan but may not be expressed to the same degree at all points. I recently completed the personality scale related to the Big 5 from McCrae & John’s (1992) five-factor model of personality. I had completed this many years ago as well. It seems that the results are pretty consistent with my personality. I have always been convinced that traits are more biologically based when speaking about personality but I agree that a multi-dimensional approach, considering environmental and socio-contextual models, may be necessary to fully understand how personality develops.

It was interesting to read about the cross-cultural criteria regarding standards for selecting mates. When reflecting on these differences and even considering the individual differences in this country alone, Sternberg’s (1986, 2006) model seems to apply. People holding similar scripts or implicit narratives of what constitutes love will most likely maintain long-term positive relationships. This theory may also explain the high divorce rates; perhaps mates holding dichotomous scripts can never really fulfill their expectations. This may be especially problematic for very young couples. I attempted to examine the expectations, which my husband and I hold. It seems that we hold complementary narratives; hopefully this continues, as the divorce rates are a bit depressing—especially for military couples like us. I had to laugh out loud during Dr.D-G’s lecture when she stated the obvious regarding the Interpersonal Model and one’s history of behavior. I have heard many anecdotes similar to the ones she described and it seems like common sense that marriage is not going to change an individual’s behavior.

In application, I think that marriage counseling may benefit couples both prior to the wedding and during the marriage itself. It is important for counselors to be aware of Sternberg’s theory, the warning signs, or the four horses of the apocalypse, and the discrepancies that may appear in relationship expectations. Counselors could facilitate open discussion and evaluation of personal love narratives with couples, so that they better understand expectations, hopefully achieving what Sternberg terms creative synthesis of the couple’s personal systems. Again, I would highly recommend such counseling for younger couples choosing marriage—just to be sure they understand each other’s expectations before they tie the knot.

 

Broderick, P.C., & Blewitt, P.B. (2010). The life span: Human development for helping professionals (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

 




3 Responses

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   Naomi Kraut  March 29, 2012  10:18 am  1

Hi Lori,

I really enjoyed reading your thoughtful post, as always. I completely relate to your personal experience of fluid and crystallized intelligence and think back to Dr. Nietfeld’s phrase “use it or lose it” with the fluid intelligence. I suppose I haven’t been using it enough. :) Interesting to read about your consistency with the Big 5. I agree with you about the biological basis of personality, although I wonder what the impact of major life-changing events might be. I think a lot about the emerging personality of my four-month-old daughter, as she already seems to have so much of a personality. While I feel like I have (too) much control over her upbringing at the moment, personality is one of the big things that I cede to her. :) Thanks for making me think more about these issues!

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