Assessment of Social Adjustments in Middle Age

Social adjustments at every age are determined by two factors: first, how adequately people play the social roles that are expected of them and, second, how much personal satisfaction they derive from playing these roles. One of the important developmental tasks of middle age is achieving civic and social responsibility. How successfully middle-aged people master this task will affect not only their social adjustments but also their personal adjustments and happiness.

However, the success with which middle-aged people master this developmental task may be determined by physical or social factors over which they have little or no control. Poor health or a physical disability may prevent them from engaging in social or civic activities they would otherwise enjoy.

Studies of social adjustments at middle age have shown that there are certain factors conducive to good social functioning at this age. The most important of these and how they contribute to good social functioning are given and briefly explained in below:

Important Conditions Conducive to Good Social Functioning in Middle Age
  • Reasonably good health – to enable participation in group activities.
  • A strong liking for social activities – to motivate putting forth the effort needed to take part in these activities.
  • Previous acquisition of social skills – to ensure self-confidence and to be able to feel at ease in social situations.
  • Absence of circumstances, such as family responsibilities or insufficient financial resources, that limit the ability to function as the social group expects.
  • A social status that is compatible with peers in desired social groups and that allows affiliation with community organizations.
  • A willingness to play follower roles graciously even though leadership roles were customary in adolescence and early adulthood.

On the whole, middle-aged people make better social adjustments than younger ones because they must depend more on people outside the home for companionship than they did earlier.

A study of patterns of social relationships among middle-aged couples has revealed that close-knit social networks are most common when the husband and wife have grown up and lived in the same area. Loose social networks, by contrast, are more common among those who have moved from place to place, especially upwardly mobile middle-class couples.

Because middle-aged people derive more satisfaction from social contacts where there is a close personal relationship than from the greater social distance that characterizes acquaintanceships, they usually prefer the former to the latter. This is true of men as well as of women and of those from the higher social classes as well as those from the lower classes.