Based on the best available psychological research, the Midlife Crisis concept is pop fiction, not proven fact. I argue this in my series of articles on the midlife crisis concept.This common misconception often shapes our view of the midlife as a time of turmoil, stress and crisis, but based upon the number of Americans who actually experience a midlife crisis [Wethington (2000) found that only 26% of respondents, whether male or female, experienced a midlife crisis], and at what point they experience it (anytime from 30 to 60 years of age), a midlife crisis is not an inevitable, negative experience that all must endure and hope to survive. As a matter of fact, it can hardly be considered a “midlife crisis” at all.
A CHRISTIAN VIEW: While I typically stay away from “absolutists” type language, there is absolutely no biblical evidence for a midlife crisis, yet Christians typically accept this popularized midlife crisis concept. There are multiple books by Christian counselors on experiencing a midlife crisis (ex. Conway, 1978). Christians’ acceptance of the midlife crisis concept shows an uncritical and harmful acceptance of an unproven, armchair psychological concept that has “leaked” into the broader culture as truth. I have seen this concept abused in many ways in the Christian community. It has often been used to justify the sin of adultery or to explain why someone “went off the deep end” in terms of their faith. We could think of many other “Christian” examples of the use and abuse of this concept.
NO PROBLEM! Most people do not even experience this ill-defined notion of a midlife crisis. Quoting Neugarten’s research into the middle age, Miller and Lachman (2000) suggests that “midlife as ‘a period of maximum capacity and ability to handle a highly complex environment and a highly differentiated self.”’ During the middle years, most individuals function at their highest level (Miller & Lachman, 2000). Generally speaking, the most productive and creative years of ones’ life are the middle years! So, the experience of crises usually involves normal events that happen in life.
CAUSES OF CRISIS: The classic conception of a midlife crisis makes it an internal event of adjusting to the next stage of development, recognizing ones’ own mortality, or finding new meaning. Yet, the typical crisis events associated with the midlife crisis, that people normally name, are: physical illness, divorce, job loss, financial problems, menopause, and becoming a grandparent for the first time, but many other life events are also mentioned (Lachman, 2004; Wethington, 2000).
IT’S NORMAL! In actuality, most of what is called a midlife crisis is normal crises that anyone may experience in the course of life. We may not be prepared for it, but it should not be unexpected. Jesus said, ” I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This does not exclude difficulty or change, but it does exclude exception. In other words, we all experience crises in life! Even if the crisis that you’re experiencing is a normal part of life, sometimes it can be overwhelming. When its’ overwhelming, seek help!
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.
Lachman, M. E. (2004). Development in Midlife. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 305-331.
Miller, L. M., & Lachman, M. E. (2000). Cognitive Performance and the Role of Control Beliefs in Midlife. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 7 (2), 69-85.
Wethington, E. (2000). Expecting Stress: Americans and the Midlife Crisis. Motivation and Emotion, 24 (2), 85-103.