Individuals’ Life Structures In The Early Adulthood Period .

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KURAM VE UYGULAMADA EĞİTİM BİLİMLERİ EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES: THEORY & PRACTICEReceived: January 5, 2016Revision received: December 21, 2016Accepted: February 14, 2017Online First: May 18, 2017Copyright 2017 10.12738/estp.2017.4.0001 August 2017 17(4) 1383–1403Research ArticleIndividuals’ Life Structures in the Early AdulthoodPeriod based on Levinson’s TheoryYahya Aktu1Siirt UniversityTahsin İlhan2Gaziosmanpaşa UniversityAbstractEarly adulthood is one of the important milestones considered within lifelong development in the relevantliterature. Adulthood is examined through various theories; however, universality of many of these is stillbeing discussed. One of these theories is Levinson’s theory of life structure. Thus, the current research aimsto examine the extent to which Levinson’s theory of individual life structure is valid in Turkish society. Thecurrent study, with a qualitative design, was based on phenomenology approach. Participants were selectedthrough maximum variation sampling among purposive sampling methods. Participants included 28 youngadults living in seven geographically different regions. Data collection was conducted with The Form ofIndividual Life Structure Evaluation developed by researchers. Data were analyzed through content analysisin NVivo8.0 software. Through content analysis, self-representation and social relationships themes wereobtained based on life structure category. Current research results showed that participants accomplishedthe tasks of modifying their life structures in a transitional period (ages 28-33 and 40-45) of their lives andthe tasks of preserving their life structures in a building period (ages 34-39) of their lives. The findingsindicated that participants in a transitional period built change-oriented metaphors and those in a buildingperiod built stability-oriented metaphors.KeywordsLevinson’s theory of life structure Life structure Self-Representation Social relationships Early adulthood Phenomenology approach1 Correspondence to: Yahya Aktu, Department of Social Services and Counseling, Siirt University, Eruh, Siirt Turkey.Email: [email protected] Department of Educational Sciences,Email: npaşaUniversity,TokatTurkey.Citation: Aktu, Y., & İlhan, T. (2017). Individuals’ life structures in the early adulthood period based on Levinson’s theory.Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 17, 1383–1403.

EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES: THEORY & PRACTICEPeople go through various developmental periods throughout their lives followingbirth. In the field of philosophy, human development seems to be viewed as a processof understanding life and adjusting in changes (Platon, 2006). According to lifelongdevelopment approach, 15 development periods starting with conception and endingwith death are recognized. Early adulthood among these periods involves variousdevelopmental tasks to be accomplished (Onur, 2000). Thus, this period consistsof life years that are psychologically satisfactory as well as wearing (Elkind, 1970;Erikson, 1984; Levinson, 1986; Santrock, 2006). Relevant literature refers tomany theorists providing explanation about developmental tasks. Theorists suchas Havighurst, vitally addressing adulthood years, as well as Bühler, Jung, Gould,Vaillant, and Erikson stand among them. Another theorist importantly consideringadulthood in the relevant literature is Levinson.Levinson (1977; 1986) and Levinson, Darrow, Klein, Levinson, and McKee(1976), explaining human development within a course of life, constructed thetheory of individual life structure upon studying males in their mid-adulthood.Levinson developed his theory later (1987; 1996) adding early-adulthood femalesin his research (Levinson, 1996). According to Levinson, during each changeperiod, an adult individual has psychological characteristics, social groups, andwork environment characteristics particular to himself/herself. Adult developmentis an important connection point among disciplines such as psychology, sociology,history, and biology (Levinson, 1986, 1996). Levinson emphasizes the concepts oflife course, life cycle, and life structure in his theory of individual life structure putforward upon examining adult development.Life course consists of observable characteristics of human development throughthe beginning to the end of life. As life course includes fluctuations, progression, andregression, it is not a continuous process simple to be understood. Bio-psycho-socialfactors must be considered all together when examining the life course (Kittrell,1998; Levinson, 1986, 1996; Minter & Samuels, 1998; O’Connor & Wolfe, 1991).The second concept considered within Levinson’s theory is life cycle referring tothe development and change in an order in the course of life. Life cycle respectivelyincludes four seasons such as pre-adulthood (0-22), early adulthood (17-45), midadulthood (40-65), and late adulthood (60 and above) (Levinson, 1986, 1996).The third and last concept examined within Levinson’s theory is the concept oflife structure. Life structure consists of the sum of individual’s experienced selfinvestment (self-representation/individual) and social roles (meaningful relationshipswith others/social). Self-investment (individual/internal) processes includedindividual expectations, hopes, skills, life goals, values and the meanings assigned tosituations, and interpretation pertaining to them. Social (external) processes, on theother hand, encompass social responsibilities, undertaken roles, memberships, family1384

Aktu, İlhan / Individuals’ Life Structures in the Early Adulthood Period based on Levinson’s Theoryrelationships, professional preferences, leisure activities, friendships, life styles, andthe whole of socio-economic life preferences (Levinson, 1986, 1996).According to Levinson (1986; 1996), individual life structure develops withinan organized order and non-changing pattern, relative to transitional and buildingperiods and age during early, mid, and late adulthood in a life cycle. The concept oforder often refers to an adult’s pattern of building and changing a structure, thus, his/her periodical change. During building periods within the life cycle, the individualaccomplishes the task of building a structure. During the building period, the firstand basic task of an individual is to build a life structure. His/her second task isabout including goals, expectations, self-investments such as self-conception andfriendships, family, children, professional life, his/her social life as in social rolesin this life structure and choosing basic preferences. Individuals during adulthoodaccomplish a task of structure change in transitional periods. During this period,individual’s first task is to review the present structure, seek opportunities of changein self-representation and social relationships and to put forward preferencesfundamental for the next life structure.Briefly, Levinson finalized his theory of life structure upon research with malesfrom various professions in mid-adulthood and later research with females fromvarious professions and stay-home females in early and mid-adulthood. As Levinsonstated, marriage, work, and family may be considered an individual’s central elementsthroughout his/her life. Levinson, as well as Buhler, Erikson, and Gould stated thatindividuals review their lives at the end of early adulthood and achieve the transitionto mid-ages by developing different goals. Levinson’s theory, as well as Erikson’stheory, may be considered an ideal theory to explain the detailed and psycho-socialdevelopment throughout life.Early adulthood period was examined based on Levinson’s theory in the current study.Early adulthood as a period to include and evaluate considerable preferences of spouse,family, and profession has an important place in life. Planning and activities about how toexperience the adulthood as a large section of life make this period important. According toLevinson (1977; 1978; 1986; 1996), the development of individual in the early adulthoodmanifests itself in five periods including two building periods and three transitional periodssuch as, respectively, transition to early adulthood (17-22), introduction into life structurefor early adulthood (22-28), the transition of age 30 (28-33), ending the life structure ofearly adulthood (33-40), and mid-age transition (40-45). During the mentioned building(building structure) and transition (changing structure) periods, an individual shapes his/her life structure through tasks undertaken.A review of research on life structure indicates that Levinson (1977; 1978; 1996)interviewed males and females working in various professions during early and1385

EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES: THEORY & PRACTICEmid-adulthood in detail to determine the building and transition periods within thelife structure for both genders. Smart and Peterson (1994) found that females, withvariables of pregnancy and motherhood in the early adulthood, had different lifestructures than males had. Kopelman and Glass (1979) determined the periods ofbuilding and changing structures within life structure through qualitative researchwith mid-age adults. Rolland (1987) found in research on patients with chronicaldiseases that life structure was formed within the periods of life cycle. Carpenter(1992) determined differences based on individual life structure and experiences indefining the leisure time in adulthood. Wolfe, O’Connor, and Crary (1990) foundthe life structure transformations in a study with 64 males and females in mid-agetransition. They revealed that the dimensions of potential realization, degree ofconflict, and transience were in a central position. In addition to those mentionedabove, the researchers (Wolfe et al., 1990) determined that flexibility, complexity, andability to make decisions independently, as changes in the life structure, contributedmore in questioning the life.Gordon, Beatty, and Whelan-Berry (2002) found, in their study with adult femalesin the period of structure change, that internal and external organizations were neededbased on the variables of home, work, and family. Green (2006) determined theconcepts of building and changing structures within life structure and the buildingand transition periods in Karen Horney’s early adulthood period. Also, in thementioned research, relationships with family, friend, professional life, and others inthe religious environment were found to be effective on life structure. Robinson andSmith (2010) examined developmental crises associated with professional life andclose relationships in early adulthood to focus on how developmental crises shapedthe life structure. Smithson (2011) studied relationships among females’ socialrelationships, meaning in life, health, and mid-age transition. Thus, the researcherdetermined changes in life structures of females in the mid-age transition.As can be seen in the mentioned studies, research associated with Levinson’stheory of life structure involved the development of adults. A review of the localrelevant literature shows that research on adult development (Arslan, 2008; Atak,2011; Morsünbül, 2015; Özden, 2014) was based on Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development and some studies (Atak, 2011; Eryılmaz & Ercan, 2010; İlhan &Özdemir, 2012) were based on Arnett’s theory of emerging adulthood. It can be saidthat those studies commonly included the approach of periods for adult developmentand researchers mostly studied the adults during the transition (change) into earlyadulthood. Many studies conducted on adult development in Turkey have notincluded research based on Levinson’s theory of life structure. On the other hand, alimited number of studies (Green, 2006; Levinson, 1996; Robinson & Smith, 2010)based on Levinson’s theory of life structure, within foreign relevant literature, have1386

Aktu, İlhan / Individuals’ Life Structures in the Early Adulthood Period based on Levinson’s Theorybeen found to consider the early adulthood. Thus, the current study is considered tosignificantly contribute in removing those limitations within the relevant literatureand in theoretical research.Levinson’s theory could be said to differ from the theories of researchers suchas Buhler, Gould, and Erikson in a few aspects. One of those aspects is about theassumptions associated with different cultures. Mentioned theories are assumed to befound within societies prioritizing relative individualism; however, Levinson’s theoryof life structure is assumed to be found within societies with relative collectivismprioritized and also within societies with individual roles socially controlled.Secondly, Levinson’s theory of life structure focuses on the concept of change insteadof development, despite being based on the approach of periods as other theoriesdo, when explaining the adulthood. In other words, how an adult individual psychosocially changes rather than develops is in the center. Levinson stated that an adultindividual went through successive building and transitional periods throughout theirlives and their lives were on constant change. Thirdly, contrary to other theorists’view of a separate psycho-social development task in each development period,Levinson’s theory of life structure included structure building and structure changingtasks during the early adulthood period. Those characteristics mentioned above makeLevinson’s theory of life structure worth to be studied.According to Levinson’s (1996) theory, early adulthood is an ideal period for studyingthe concept of life structure. Early adulthood includes psycho-social developmentdomains such as development of self, emotional development, marriage and familylife, social relationships, professional life, and career organization. Individual duringthe early adulthood is supposed to accomplish tasks assigned to him/her withinthe mentioned domains to complete his/her psycho-social development. Duringthis period, plans and activities about mid and late adulthood are put forward. Thisperiod includes building and transitional times of an individual’s life structure. Thesesuccessive building and transitional periods include the whole of early adulthood(Levinson, 1996). When tasks are accomplished during this period, important changesoccur in self-representation, social relationships, and professional and family lives.As such, studies associated with life structure may contribute significantly in thefields of adult psychology, professional and occupational counseling, and family andmarriage therapy.Consequently, many studies on career development, life goals, life crises, andtransitional periods, based on Levinson’s theory of life structures, have been conducted.However, most of those studies were conducted in relatively individualistic cultures.Hence, it will be important to review Levinson’s theory of life structure in relativelycollectivistic Turkish society and examine it based on the dynamics of Turkish1387

EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES: THEORY & PRACTICEsociety. In this context, the findings of the current study are thought to contribute ininter-cultural psychology and local relevant literature. For practical purposes, expertsworking in the areas of professional and occupational counseling and family andmarriage therapy may provide healthier psychological support, within protective andpreventive mental health, for individuals to better accomplish developmental tasksduring building and transitional periods in early adulthood. Thus, the current studyexamining a different culture and individual differences in terms of life structure issignificant.Based on the results, limitations, and suggestions found in research within therelevant literature, the current study aims to examine individual life structures ofindividuals, based on Levinson’s theory of life structure, during early adulthood.Sub-questions of the current study based on the above-mentioned general purposeare as follows:1. What are the self-representations of participants during early adulthood, basedon Levinson’s theory?2. What are the social relationships of participants during early adulthood, basedon Levinson’s theory?MethodModelAn interpretive phenomenological design, as a qualitative research approach, wasused in the current study to examine the life structures of individuals during earlyadulthood. Interpretive phenomenological design is stated to be a research model tostudy the meanings attributed on states and situations based on individual experiencesand perceptions (Creswell, 2003). In this context, based on subjective experiencesof individuals during early adulthood, how they perceived the phenomenon of lifestructure and how they viewed this phenomenon in their lives were examined.ParticipantsThe participants for the current study were selected through maximum variationsampling among purposive sampling used in interpretive phenomenological design.Purposive sampling is defined as selecting rich sources of information that presentopportunity for an involved research; maximum variation sampling, on the otherhand, is described as forming the sample among various similar situations (Patton,2002). Participants included 28 individuals, with ages 28-45 (X 34.46; S 4.76),living in seven different regions in Turkey. 43% of the participants were femalesand 57% were males. 25% (7) of the participants were employed in education, 25%1388

Aktu, İlhan / Individuals’ Life Structures in the Early Adulthood Period based on Levinson’s Theory(7) in healthcare, 18% (5) in technical, 14% (4) in finance, and 18% (5) in securityprofessions. 28% (8) of the participants lived in Siirt, 14% (4) lived in Elazig,11%(3) lived in Manisa, 11% (3) lived in Balikesir, 14% (4) in Adana, 11% (3) in Konya,and 11% (3) lived in Rize. The education levels of the participants were as follows:4% (1) secondary, 14% (4) a two-year institution, 57% (16) university, 18% (5) MA,and 7% (2) PhD.MeasuresThe semi-structured Individual Life Structure Evaluation Form was used in thecurrent research to collect data. The form, based on Levinson’s (1978; 1986; 1996)theory of life structure, was created by the researchers. In addition, questions in similarqualitative studies (Carpenter & Patterson, 2004; Gordon et al., 2002; Rickards,2005; Robinson & Smith, 2010; Smithson, 2011; Stumpf, 2012; Wolfe et al., 1990)were examined when creating the current form. The first section on the form consistsof eight questions about gender, age, profession, etc. The second section consists offourteen questions of individual life structure on life goal, life structure, the orderof structure building and changing, energy sources, leisure time, etc. Following arethree items on the measure: “What would your life be like if you were to make ananalogy between your life and a thing or situation?”, “How do you presently use mostof your time and energy?”, and “If you were able to change everything you haveexperienced in your life so far, what would you change in the first plan?”ProcedureTrips for research purposes to the cities of Konya, Manisa, Balıkesir, Adana, Rize,Elazığ, and Siirt in seven different geographical regions in Turkey were organized.The preference on the mentioned geographical region was based on various problemsand the classification of SES and cultural units in the region were taken into account.Cities were chosen based on the level of development and variety in population. Inaddition, settlements, thought to include rich sources of information and similarities,were considered. Thus, locations, with relative individualism and collectivisticcultural structure, where individuals with different characteristics in early adulthoodlived were chosen (Şengül, Eslemian, & Eren, 2013).Data collection took almost sixmonths (February to August 2014) in total. First of all, a field research on rich

1385 Aktu, İlhan / Individuals’ Life Structures in the Early Adulthood Period based on Levinson’s Theory relationships, professional preferences, leisure activities, friendships, life styles, and the whole o