Gains and Losses in Middle Adulthood

Unit 8 Discussion 1

Gains and Losses in Middle Adulthood

Discuss Baltes‘ theory on the gains and losses in middle adulthood. Elaborate on the processes of growth, maintenance, and regulation of loss that can be adaptive for development at this stage. Describe how age-graded changes and history-graded changes help to explain development during this stage.

As humans, we are constantly growing and developing. However, there was a time when psychologists didn’t seem to understand that idea. Developmental psychology, the study of how humans grow and change, was confined to the years from birth through adolescence. By the time people reach adulthood, psychologists believed, they are through developing.

Paul Baltes disagreed with the traditional view of development. He saw the way that people changed throughout the entirety of their lives and established the life span perspective of development, which views growth and change as occurring at all points in a person’s life, as well as in many different directions at once. Whether a child is learning to feed himself or a new parent is learning how to make decisions based on more than her own selfish interests, people are always growing and changing.

Baltes’ life span developmental theory considers development as adapting to both gains and losses at all ages of life. There are three types of adaptations that we go through: growth, maintenance, and regulation of loss. We grow when we add new characteristics, understandings, and skills to our behavior repertoire. We show maintenance when we are able to find ways to function at the same level when faced with challenges or when we are able to restore our functioning and “bounce back” after suffering a loss. Regulation of loss is similar to maintenance in that both adaptations involve reorganizing our behavior. However, the unique aspect of regulation of loss involves adjusting our expectations and accepting a lower level of functioning. Growth typically is much more common in childhood than it isin old age, while regulation of loss is much more commonin old age than it is childhood (Broderick &Blewitt, 2015).

Adult development is influenced by different changes that we must adapt to over the course of life. Age-graded changes refer to the changes that come as a function of time. Some physical changes in adulthood include declines in sensory ability and, more so for women than for men, declines in reproductive ability. Appearance changes as skin wrinkles and sags, and weight gain is common, though not uncontrollable. Cognitive changes that occur with age, such as the capacity of working memory, declines with age which can affect problem solving negatively, as less information can be held in the mind simultaneously. Semantic memory, on the other hand, continues to expand with age, as we learn more and more information, and often, older adults solve problems better than younger ones because they are more likely to have expertise to offer. Life-course changes in the tasks and responsibilities we face or sequences of change in our concerns as we progress through adulthood are also age-graded changes.

History-graded changes affect the development of a whole cohort. A life-course perspective emphasizes that development is influenced by chronological age, family related roles, and membership in a birth cohort. Thus, the same historical events can have different effects on members of different cohorts. Recent cohorts of children are experiencing a time of increased breakdown in social connections and physical and psychological threats. Apparently as a result, they experience more anxiety than older cohorts did as children. In our current “age of anxiety,” young people have a heightened sense of vulnerability due to weakening social bonds and expanding threats.

Hattie Collins


Broderick, P. C., &Blewitt, P. (2015). The life span: Human development for helping professionals (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn& Bacon. ISBN: 9780132942881

Place an Order

Plagiarism Free!

Scroll to Top