Turning points in the lives of midlife and older women: Five-year follow-up

Rosemary Leonard*, Alisa Burns

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    Self-perceived turning points are the means by which individuals incorporate important changes into their life story or "self-narrative. Following an initial life review interview, 60 married or previously married lower-income midlife and older women from three birth cohorts (born 1931 - 36, 1941 - 46 and 1951 - 56) were asked to nominate the turning points in their lives. The turning points identified were classified as involving predominantly a role transition, an adversity or an experience of personal growth. In all three cohorts, role transition turning points declined with age, while personal growth turning points increased. Turning points reported at the original interviews (Stage 1) were compared to those reported at 5-year follow-up interviews with the 48 women who remained in the study (Stage 2). The pattern of decline in role transitions and increase in personal growth with age was even more marked in Stage 2 than Stage 1. Adversity turning points, which appeared to be declining with age in Stage 1, were more evenly distributed in Stage 2. This change related to the increasing health problems of a number of the oldest cohort and their spouses, now in their late 60s. A new category of turning point, succeeding after a long effort or struggle, was required for Stage 2. This category revealed the women's resilience against the adversities reported at Stage 1. The overall picture is of a change in the nature of turning points around midlife. Role transitions turning points were more common before midlife, and. personal growth ones after midlife. Adversity can occur at any time. These results are consistent with a range of approaches that emphasise the advantages of ageing and the growth of wisdom.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)28-36
    Number of pages9
    JournalAustralian Psychologist
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2006


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