Middlesence, Generativity vs. Stagnation

Erik Erickson made significant contribution to developmental psychology esp. his theory of stages of psychosocial development.

As per the theory when a person reaches middle age ( 39 yrs to 60 yrs) , question he asks himself is “ Can I make my life count?”.

He faces dilemma of Generativity Vs. Stagnation. He is satisfied with his life if he feels that he has made significant contribution to next generation ex. his children, subordinates etc. He may feel disappointed if he feels that he has not made much progress in his life or if he is stagnating in his career.


Stagnation leads to what is called as “middlesence”-term coined by Harvard Psychologist Tamara Erikson. It is combination of two terms – Middle and Obsolescence. Typical reaction of middlesence manager is “This is not how my life and career were supposed to play out”. At this stage manager is sandwiched between increasing work pressure and responsibility of old parents and growing children.Stress can lead to many health related problems. Three words can describe his condition- Burnout, Bottlenecked & Bored.


A person suffering from middlesence may indulge in destructive habits to get out of it ex. buying expensive gadgets or even cars, having affair with younger women, lose interest in work and indulge in fantasy etc.


But middlesence is also a good opportunity to make a new beginning in life. Tamara Erikson suggests few strategies ex. taking fresh assignments in different geographies, make career changes, make use of your knowledge and experience to mentor younger colleagues, train yourself in new skills and undergo leadership development course etc.

“Like adolescence, middlesence can be a time of frustration, confusion and alienation, but also time for self-discovery, new directions and fresh beginnings”
– Tamara Erikson


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