Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 38–49 | Cite as

Later-Life Crisis: Towards a Holistic Model

  • Oliver C. RobinsonEmail author
  • Alexander J. Stell


Crisis episodes have been most commonly associated with midlife, and correspondingly research on crisis after midlife is marked by its absence. Here, we report findings from a retrospective interview-based study of 21 adults about crises occurring between the ages of 60 and 69, in the first attempt to explore the holistic structure, process and experiential contents of later-life crisis. Basing our analysis on existing models of late-adult development, four key areas of later-life crisis were explored as follows: (1) life events and relationships, (2) self and identity, (3) motivation and goals and (4) cognition and affect. We were able to define a provisional common holistic process to later-life crisis episodes, shared by all participants, which included multiple loss-inducing stressful life events that provide a cumulative challenge to coping resources, a struggle with ego integrity, increased mortality awareness and the re-scaling of goals, activities and roles in ways that pertain to re-engagement, continuity or disengagement. Findings are discussed in relation to theories of adult development in later life, while strategies are proposed for future research on this understudied area.


Crisis Later life Retirement Ego integrity Third Age Disengagement Qualitative 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and CounsellingUniversity of GreenwichLondonUK
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of SussexFalmerUK

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