Daniel J. Levinson wrote The Seasons of A Man’s Life. Mr. Levinson conducted his research for the book in the late 1960s. At that time he was a Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry of the Yale University School of Medicine, Director of Psychology in the Connecticut Mental Health Center, and Director of the Research Unit for Social Psychology and Psychiatry.
Early in the book, Mr. Levinson states his reasons for engaging in the research of male adult development and for ultimately writing the book. “The choice of topic reflected a personal concern: at 46, I wanted to study the transition into middle age in order to understand what I had been going through myself.
Over the previous ten years of my life had changed in crucial ways; I had developed in a sense I could not articulate. The study would cast light on my own experience and, I hoped, contribute to an understanding of adult development in general.”
The book is completely about Levinson’s theory of male adult development. Levinson acquired his research by interviewing 40 men between the ages of 35 and 45 from four different occupational groups. Through his interviews, Levinson believed that all males pass through a series of stages, each of which presents a different problem to be solved.
The first stage is known as the early adult transition (ages 17-22). The problem is to develop a sense of independence by separating from one’s family and trying out different lifestyles. This is the stage where hopes and dreams are formulated. The next stage is entering the adult world (ages 22-28). The problem at this stage is to explore and obtain the many adult roles that are needed to be happy and successful in one’s career and relationships. A set of priorities begin to form.
The age-thirty transition (ages 28-33) happens next. In this stage, the man establishes his role in society, builds a nest, and pursues more long-range plans and goals. His problem may be evaluating earlier career choices and goals. Immediately following the age-thirty transition is the settling downstage (ages 33-40). The problem here is to develop a sense of success in the major areas of one’s life, primarily one’s career and relationships.
The mid-life transition (the early 40s) begins next. The problem here is to evaluate one’s life goals and commitments, knowing that there is only a limited amount of time to reach them. The feeling that time is running out may contribute to what is often called the mid-life crisis.
Lastly, entering middle adulthood (the middle 40s). Here the problem is learning to live with previous decisions, such as by becoming more committed to one’s family or career.