David Levinson: Seasons' of a Man's Life

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David Levinson: Seasons' of A Man's Life

Introduction

Background

In May of 1977, Daniel Levinson constructed a model of the season's of a mans life. His developmental theory consists of universal stages or phases that extends from the infancy state to the elderly state. Most development theories, such as Freud's psychosexual development theory or Piaget's cognitive development theory, end in the adolescent stage of life. Levinson's stage theory is important because it goes beyond most theories assuming that development continues throughout adult life.

Levinson based his model on biographical interviews of 40 American men. These 40 men were between 35 to 45 years in age and they worked as either biology professors, novelists, business executives or industrial laborers. The biographical interviews lasted one or two hours and ranged from six to ten interviews for each subject. The questions asked focused on the subject's life accounts in their post adolescent years. The interviews focused on topics such as the men's background (education, religion, political beliefs) and major events or turning points in their lives.

Levinson's concept of life structure (the men's socio-cultural world, their participation in their world and various aspects of themselves) is the major component in Levinson's theory. The life structure for each person evolves through the developmental stages as people's age.

Two key concepts in Levinson's model are the stable period and the transitional period in a person's development. The stable period is the time when a person makes crucial choices in life, builds a life structure around the choices and seeks goals within the structure. The transitional period is the end of a person's stage and the beginning of a new stage.

Levinson's model contains five main stages. They are the pre-adulthood stage (age 0 - 22), the early adulthood stage (age 17 - 45), the middle adult stage (age 40 - 65), the late adulthood stage (age 60 - 85) and the late late adult stage (age 80 plus). Levinson states "the shift from one era to the next is a massive development step and require transitional period of several years."(Levinson, 1977) This would explain why there is an overlap in each of these stages.

Levinson's first adult stage in his model is called the Early Adult Transition Period. This phase is similar to Erikson's psychological theory in that both concern the young adult's identity crisis or role confusion. It is during this phase that the young adult first gains independence (financial or otherwise) and leaves the home. This is a transitional stage because it marks the end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood.

The second stage would be a stable period because it marks the time where the adult must pick a role, establish goals and build a life structure. This stage provides the young adult with any roles and choices for their future. Levinson believes that it is during this time that the young person dreams of his future success in a career, family life and status. Levinson also believes that the presence of a mentor or older teacher is a great influence in guiding the person through the obstacles in their career paths.

The third stage, which can be divided into two parts, is called the Age 30 transition. The first part of this phase deals with when the young adult reflects on their career and past successes and also plans for future success and status in their career as well as making plans in starting a family and settling down. In Levinson's own words, the Age 30 transition "provides an opportunity to work on the flaws and limitations of the first adult life structure and to create the basis for a new and more satisfactory structure with which to complete the era of early adulthood." (Levinson, 1977) This Age 30 transition parallels Erikson's autonomy versus shame and doubt stage which Erikson applies to...
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