Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Method: a method is a procedure agreed on by participants of a discussion or research project. In the case of violations of a method, the comparability of the results is in particular questioned, since these no longer come from a set with uniformly defined properties of the elements.

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Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

 
Author Item Summary Meta data
Upton I 147
Method/Levinson/Upton: Levinson based his theory of adult development on a series of in-depth interviews with 40 adult males between 35 and 45 years of age at the time the interviews were carried out during the late 1960s (Levinson, 1986)(1). He was motivated to carry out this study because he wanted to try to make sense of his own midlife transition. A clinical psychologist trained in psychoanalysis, Levinson called the interviews ‘biographical’, explaining to participants that the primary task was to construct the story of a man’s life. The aim was to cover the entire life sequence from childhood to the present time in each person’s life. (Levinson (1986(1), 1996(2)).
The men that Levinson interviewed worked either as biology professors, novelists, business executives or industrial labourers. The biographical interviews lasted one or two hours and from six to ten interviews were carried out with each participant.
The questions asked focused on the individuals’ accounts of their own experiences in their post-adolescent years, focusing on topics such as the men’s background (education, income etc.) and beliefs about issues such as religion and politics.
The men were also asked about major events or turning points in their lives. Over half of the men Levinson spoke to described midlife as the last chance to reach their personal goals. These goals were linked to key events such as reaching a particular level of income, or to career points such as being a supervisor or full professor.
The remaining men felt negatively about their lives because they were in dead-end or pointless jobs.
In the 1980s, Levinson interviewed 45 women of the same age (Levinson, 1996)(2). The sample comprised equal numbers of women who were either homemakers, college instructors or businesswomen.
He found that, in general, women go through the same type of life cycles that men do. However, they were less likely to enter adulthood with specific goals and, as a result, were less likely to define success in terms of key career events. Rather than focusing on external events, women usually sought changes in personal identity in midlife.
Upton I 148
VsLevinson/Upton: While it is good that Levinson acknowledged this personal interest, [one] might wonder whether this influenced his interpretation of the findings. [One] might also argue that the biographical interview is not very objective and that Levinson’s sample is not very representative.
(…) men who were interviewed for Levinson’s studies would have been born between 1924 and 1934. They were therefore raised in the 1930s and i 940s. Women and men who grew up during this time were gender-typed to a much greater extent than males and females are today.
Other problems with the studies:
Life experiences: Men who have grown up in the last few decades may well have had to deal with less stable families due to high divorce rates, as well as having to deal with a different kind of economy.
Women: the upbringing, aims and expectations of women today are very different from those at the time of Levinson’s work.


1. Levinson, DJ (1986) The Seasons of a Man’s Life. New York: Alfred Knopf.
2. Levinson, DJ (1996) The Seasons of a Woman’s Life. New York Alfred Knopf.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Levinson, Daniel J.
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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