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Unread May 22nd, 2005, 07:58 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Default Nets: Female Midlife Makes "Time"

Gibbs, N. (2005) Midlife crisis: Bring it on! How women of this generation are seizing that stressful, pivotal moment in their lives to reinvent themselves. Time. May 16, pp 52-63.

Evolution's story shapes our popular literature and not only shows up in our emotional disorders but in the choices that we make at different moments. So do some ideas from Stuart Kauffman (1995) and even in Time Magazine.
Gibbs weaves her story from interviews with the 40+ women who finish rearing children and trade their former careers in medicine, journalism, allied health professions, or teaching for entrepreneurship in brewing, traveling, and riding an ATV. They also drop their husbands or find new partners to replace them.

The story fits with other things that we know of human females but is perhaps more obvious because of the economic equality now available in western societies. The ladies get uppity when they don't need us for protection, a roof or a bowl of food, or for support checks.

The link to statistical physics?

Kauffman labored us with his finding that statistical networks freeze up when there is an average of more than two connections between their members. In human experience, a couple is more stable than two singletons and the triad of parents and child is even more constrained.
Add a second child and everyone puts on cement boots! Anyone who has reared children knows how doctor appointments complicate schedules and of the tyranny of T-ball and soccer coaches. Equalitarian believers, perhaps most likely in clumps of "liberal moms" suffer perhaps the most when they try to treat each child equally. (Gibbs cites a study that 75% of women between ages 40 and 54 find life "much too complicated.") Traditionalists, in contrast, let children form hierarchic emergent networks and give a different set of opportunities and sanctions to each child. Children, of course, cooperate magnificently when they refuse to share and when they each provoke and reward a different set of parental behaviors.

There are two kinds of lies that nature endorses early in our teens.

Males become especially kind to one particular female and, in return, demand her absolute loyalty. His mother notices that he has never been so good to any other girl, and endorses the inanity that the relationship is "made in heaven." The emotional cost is that depression quadruples in pubescent females and doubles in males. Girls first check with their friends about the market value of a particular guy and later swap those same friends for that same guy and achieve permanence, libidinal heat, and penility (sic!). The estrogen that facilitates synaptic connectivity also underlies social connectivity and the associated loss of selfish options is experienced as depression.

Children benefit from the lies spun in puberty but after children are launched, women simplify their lives and once more pursue quests that are not only genetically biased and seen elsewhere in their families, but also a replay of preteen loves. (Gibbs, however, doesn't include this possibility. Too bad!)

Gibbs reports that two-thirds of divorces between 40 and 70 are initiated by women, motorcycle purchases are up 34% in the past five years, and women, by 100%, are more likely than men to be living alone. Women's full-time college enrollment is up 31% in the past 10 years.
Women, however, do not entirely become men but remain biased towards connectivity niches such as support groups, life coaching, fitness training (Curves, targeted for the 35+ audience, has been the fastest-growing franchise in history!), and spiritual pursuits.

As for guys?
Gibbs attributes "midlife crisis" to invention in 1965 by Elliot Jacques but the concept was restricted to males who bought sports cars and found a much younger chippie. I, however, suspect there is, as usual, more variation in males than in females. That is, Jacques noticed the high-rollers but missed the more sedate types who reacted to their fading testosterone levels by not only becoming more boring but also more content to cuddle grandchildren and grow plump. Males, however, do not become entirely female. Instead, the differences between genders wane after the kids leave along with our motivation to make them. Of course, some males, probably the impulsive, hyperactive ones, retreat to earlier patterns of separation anxiety and abate it with television, barmaids, and large dogs...

Brody, JF (1999) Evolution and Complexity Theory: Mania, ADHD, and Dysthymia and Hierarchic Regulation. Paul MacLean Festschrift, Boston, May 15. Later published as From Physics and Evolutionary Neuroscience to Psychotherapy: Phase Transitions and Adaptations, Diagnosis and Treatment. In G. Cory & R. Gardner (Eds.) The Evolutionary Neuroethology of Paul MacLean: Convergences & Frontiers, Praeger-Greenwood, 2002, pp. 231-259.
Kauffman, S. (1995) At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self Organization and Complexity. NY: Oxford.

Copyright, James Brody, 2005, all rights reserved.

Last edited by James Brody; June 13th, 2005 at 06:28 PM.
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