Levinson's Life Structure Theory
Yale psychologist Daniel Levinson (1986) developed a comprehensive theory of adult development. Through a series of intensive interviews with men (1978) and women (1987), Levinson proposed a theory based on a series of stages that adults go through as they develop. At the center of his theory is the life structure, the underlying pattern of an individual's life at any particular time. An individual's life structure is shaped by the social and physical environment. Many individuals' life structures primarily involve family and work, although other variables such as religion, race, and economic status are often important. Levinson's four "seasonal cycles" include preadulthood, early adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood. Levinson (1978) originally studied forty adult males between thirty–five and forty–five years of age. Early adulthood is entered when men begin careers and families. After an evaluation of themselves at about age thirty, men settle down and work toward career advancement. Then another transition occurs at about age forty, as men realize some of their ambitions will not be met. During middle adulthood, men deal with their particular individuality and work toward cultivating their skills and assets. Finally, the transition to late adulthood is a time to reflect upon successes and failures and enjoy the rest of life. Next, Levinson (1987) interviewed forty–five women between the ages of thirty–five and forty–five years of age. One–third were homemakers, one–third college instructors, and one-third businesswomen. In general, he found that women go through the same type of cycles that men do. However, the life stages of women tend to be tied closer to the family life cycle.