Cultural Differences in Middle Adulthood Video

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  • 0:01 Middle Adulthood
  • 1:03 Generativity
  • 2:48 Mid-Life Crisis
  • 4:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Middle adulthood can be a full and challenging time of life, but not everyone experiences middle age the same way. Watch this lesson to find out how culture impacts middle adulthood, including the concepts of generativity and mid-life crisis.

Middle Adulthood

Sheena is in her late 40s, and her life is changing. She's starting to notice that she's looking older: she has lots of gray hair, and wrinkles are popping up. Her kids have gone off to college, which means that she's left with an empty house that can sometimes feel a little lonely.

But it's not all bad. Sheena is in charge of her entire department at work, and because she's making more money than she's ever made before, she's been able to take vacations to places she's always wanted to go.

Sheena is in middle adulthood, which is also called middle age. This is the time of life between ages 40 and 65. It is a time of great change in a person's life, and many people, like Sheena, find that there are both good things and bad things happening in middle adulthood.

But not everyone experiences middle age the same. Let's look at some ways that a person's culture, or the beliefs and traditions of a person's country or race, can influence the way they experience middle adulthood.


For the most part, Sheena is enjoying her middle age. Since her kids moved out to go to college, she's free to pursue hobbies and travel more.

One thing that Sheena has been thinking more and more about is her legacy, or what she wants to leave behind for future generations. This is such a common thought in middle adulthood that psychologists have a name for it. Generativity is the tendency to reach out and guide the next generation.

Generativity can come in many forms: volunteering to mentor someone just out of college, for example, or putting together a book or blog to pass wisdom on. But many people in middle age focus their efforts on becoming generative adults.

Take Sheena: she's joined a group of women who are determined to mentor and make it easier for the next generation of women in the workforce. Sheena really had to work hard and deal with a lot of sexist behaviors to get to where she is today, and she wants to help younger women so that they don't have the same issues she did.

So what does generativity have to do with culture? Though the urge to share with the next generation is found in almost all cultures, the focus of that work differs. In some cultures, for example, generativity might take the form of teaching skills, while in other cultures it might be more about sharing fables and cultural songs and art. In other cultures, generativity takes the form of becoming spiritual leaders.

Sheena's work to help the next generation of women in the workforce would probably not be part of generativity in a community where women stayed at home and just took care of the kids instead of working. After all, they wouldn't need that kind of mentoring then!

Mid-Life Crisis

So, culture affects the form of generativity, but not the fact of it. In other words, people from all different cultures focus on becoming generative, starting in middle age, but the way they express that generativity is different depending on the culture.

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