Midlife Work Role Transitions

Elizabeth Bussman Mahler

in The Oxford Handbook of Reciprocal Adult Development and Learning

Second edition

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199736300
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Midlife Work Role Transitions

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  • Developmental Psychology



Changing economic, technological, political, and social realities have altered contemporary career contexts, disrupted established career routines, and prompted an increase in the number of adults who are experiencing midlife work role transitions. This 21st-century phenomenon offers unprecedented opportunities for learning and development during middle adulthood, a stage that Erikson labeled Generativity versus Stagnation, in which leaving a legacy is a major task. Work role transitions, usually periods of great volatility, provide valuable psychosocial perspectives through which to observe the learning and development dynamic that becomes more visible as individuals move through the discrete phases (e.g., exploration, trial, establishment, mastery) of the transition cycle. Each phase contains constructive-developmental tasks that must be mastered and interpreted through individual meaning-making systems, and which support both identity growth and the strengthening of the self-directed career attitudes and behaviors that are required for successful adaptation to the demands of a 21st-century career.

Keywords: career; work role; transitions; midlife; generativity; learning; development; meaning-making; identity; adaptation

Article.  22772 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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