Parenthood During the Middle Years: Interacting with Children

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  • 0:02 Parenthood in Middle Age
  • 1:06 Identity Development
  • 3:19 Social Relationships
  • 4:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

In this lesson, we will explore the issues related to parenting and child-rearing in mid-life. We will look at how developing one's identity influences parent-child relationships in positive and negative ways.

Parenthood in Middle Age

Think about growing up and how you interacted with your parents. I'll admit that growing up is a very selfish process. In my opinion, we don't really think about how growing up affects our parents. You may not believe it, but did you ever think about how your growing up affected your parents?

Teenagers are sort of known for their tumultuous and high-energy demands. But what most teenagers don't think about, and what I have not thought about until I wrote this lesson, is that middle age can also be a time of great change. Middle aged is a person between the ages of 40 and 60. Let's do some simple math. Assuming a parent had a child around the age of 25, at 40 the child would be 15. Your parents were likely struggling through the changes of middle age at the same time that they were struggling with raising you and all the changes that occurred in that process. So that's a lot of change for your poor parents. Let's look at a couple of the major changes that parents may experience.

Identity Development

Identity is the internal and external qualities, beliefs, and ideas that a person uses to identify themselves. We all have one. If I ask you who you are, you may tell me that you are a writer, a student, a gamer, and a Buddhist, Christian, Catholic, or Muslim believer. It is how we make choices and what we use to evaluate other people. It is one of the most central and integrative parts of who we are.

In our teenage years, we attempt to establish an identity. We explore what our roles are in the world and who we are. That's why it's okay for teenagers to dress crazy; they are just exploring what it means to be them. But just because someone turns 18 or 20 doesn't mean that person stops developing. Over the course of a lifetime, the identity changes and develops. New job opportunities may come up, which can cause someone to question their place in the world. Or, as television seems to portray, the idea of missed opportunities can come to a head.

A midlife crisis is an identity questioning, often characterized by emotional turmoil and a desire for change. Unlike a teenager, who is able to morph their identity and change as they want, an adult and parent often must have a consistent identity. Children whose parents change their identity every day find themselves being raised by someone who is very chaotic. This stability, however, can lead to stagnation and a wish for change. This has been portrayed a lot in the media with the parent or adult who tries to change their life and to be young again.

Will a midlife crisis actually succeed in changing a person? Don't know, I can't say. But it can have profound effects on teenagers as they themselves are trying to figure out who they are. This can lead to parentification, in which a youth takes on adult responsibilities when a parent leaves them. This can cause children to develop various mental illnesses as they are basically forced to take on the roles that they are not ready for. Imagine trying to run a corporation after eight years on the assembly line. That's stress!

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