According to Pineo (1961, p. 3) there has been interest in the concept of ‘marital disenchantment’ since 1927, however most research conducted showed ‘marital disenchantment’ in the early stages in marriage. Additionally, Pineo found that there had been no study or work done to conclude that ‘marital disenchantment’ develops “after the marriage has endured for several years” (Pineo 1961, p. 3). Therefore according to Peterson (2004) Peter Pineo in 1961 conducted the first longitudinal study of marital happiness to illustrate marital disenchantment in the later stages in marriage. Hence this essay will discuss the concept of marital disenchantment in the later stages of marriage, the stages in mid-adulthood that might contribute to the concept of marital disenchantment according to Erikson, some of the factors that might contribute to marital disenchantment, and further suggest particular programs that may be used to address the factors that may contribute to marital disenchantment in case work or marital counselling.
‘Concept of Marital Disenchantment’
According to Peterson (2004) Pineo found in his longitudinal study of marital happiness, that “happiness with marriage deteriorates for the average couple as the years go by” (Peterson 2004, p. 483). Further Peterson concludes that Pineo proved that “spouses love for one another had diminished along with their enjoyment of being married” (Peterson 2004, p. 483). Additionally, Pineo’s study revealed that whilst love and enjoyment decreased the “threat of divorced increased” (Peterson 2004, p. 483). Furthermore, Pineo concluded that ‘disenchantment’ in marriages more than a few years old was inevitable (Peterson, 2004).
‘Marital Disenchantment in Mid-Adulthood’
The family life cycle is an important aspect when discussing marital disenchantment in mid-adulthood. This is mainly due to the fact that the family life cycle conveys the developmental phases that one might experience during marriage. Furthermore, the family life cycle offers an “organised way of thinking about how the family system changes over time, and the impact of each phase on the family unit and the individuals within it” Berk, 2007 p. 474).
The middle adulthood phase in the family life cycle is referred to as “launching children and moving on” (Berk, L. 2007 p. 541). In the past it was often referred to as “the empty nest”, but this phrase implies a negative transition especially for women. When adults devote themselves entirely to their children, the end of active parenting can trigger feelings of emptiness and regret. But for many people, middle adulthood is a liberating time, offering a sense of completion and an opportunity to strengthen existing ties or build new ones. Further, it is at this stage where middle aged adults must adapt to new roles or develop new/different types of roles and relationships.
‘Theories of Stages in Mid-Adulthood that contribute to Marital Disenchantment’
According to Erik Erikson, during middle aged adulthood phase one experiences a psychological conflict. This theory is known as Generativity versus Stagnation. Generativity involves reaching out to others in ways that give to and guide the nest generation. Generativity usually starts in early adulthood, typically through childbearing and child rearing and expands greatly in mid-life, when commitment extends beyond oneself (identity) and one’s life partner (intimacy) to a larger group such as family, community, or society. The generative adult combines the need for self expression with the need for communion, integrating personal goals with the welfare of the larger social world. It is at the generativity stage that brings together personal desires and cultural demands. The negative outcome of the Middle Adulthood stage is stagnation. This stage could also be a factor contributing to marital disenchantment. This is because during this stage, Erikson recognised that “once people...
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