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Daniel levinson and his theory of adult development: A reminiscence and some clarifications


I offer some reminiscences occasioned by the death of Daniel Levinson, a modern pioneer in the study of the human life cycle. I clarify three controversial aspects of Levinson's theory—its universality, the role of critical life events, and the place of relationships—as well as briefly foreshadow findings from his forthcoming book on women. I show that relationships to people, enterprises, and social institutions are the stuff out of which the individual life structure—Levinson's central concept—is formed. Levinson's dream was of a society in which the developmental needs of adults were better understood and met so that they could more generatively fill their roles in the institutions upon which the young depend. He thought this essential to the evolution of a society that would be both more competent and more humane. In this dream, which was a product of his own difficult mid-life transition and a measure of the success he achieved in integrating its polarities, Levinson united a warm, scientific interest in others with an affectionate curiosity about nature.

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Correspondence to Peter M. Newton.

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Newton, P.M. Daniel levinson and his theory of adult development: A reminiscence and some clarifications. J Adult Dev 1, 135–147 (1994).

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Key words

  • Levinson
  • life cycle
  • relationships
  • adult development
  • women's development