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Am J Psychiatry. 1979 Jul;136(7):887-94.

Time, age, and the life cycle.


Psychologists are increasingly interested in the life cycle as the unit for study and in such questions as whether adult development, like child development, is to be perceived as a succession of stages. A stage theory of adult life seems oversimplified for several reasons. First, the timing of life events is becoming less regular, age is losing its customary social meanings, and the trends are toward the fluid life cycle and an age-irrelevant society. Second, the psychological themes and preoccupations reported by young, middle-aged, and older persons are recurrent ones that appear and reappear in new forms and do not follow in a single fixed order. Third, intrapsychic changes occur slowly with age and not in stepwise fashion. These factors may have implications for the psychiatrist who, in helping the patient make a meaningful life story from a life history, deals always with issues of time, timing, and aging.

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