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Do you also have middle age working women experience? The present study explored the experiences of the middle age working women in Chandigarh during the phase of transition from adulthood to early midlife using principles of qualitative method.
Four major themes about their experiences were identified and explained from the first-hand accounts of the women of this age. The major themes are Factors indicating initiation of midlife, changes in the relationship with the partner, changes in familial role, and feelings during the transition. The initial theme that emerged from the narratives of participants was the belief among the women related to the initiation of midlife.
The most prominent belief related to the initiation of midlife as reported by the participants was the significant change in the number of responsibilities.
In the context of the patriarchal society, we often find that women are burdened with a lot of responsibilities. The most important life event that brought a change in the responsibilities of these women is marriage in most cases it was arranged marriage where no importance was given to the choices of women and they had to oblige by their parent's Participants did not associate any age group with the initiation of midlife rather they saw marriage as the threshold of entering midlife despite any particular age.
Whereas other factors like feeling the age were considered as initiating factors of midlife when individuals themselves started feeling that they are getting old and changes are happening in their bodies. Most of these changes were related to the physical aspects of their bodies like a decrease in the level of functioning. It was found that around 20% of women in the age group of 40-55 reported limitations in physical functioning.
Even growing up children marked the beginning of midlife because for some it indicated an increase in responsibilities while for others it was the time when they were able to spend more time with their partners. Along with the heterogeneity of samples, different beliefs about middle age were reported which indicates the confusion surrounding this phase of an individual’s life.
Banister (1999) in his study reported that during midlife the most important area in which loss or change is experienced by women is their sexuality. This has been evident in the present research as it was observed that there was either a decline in sexual activity or there was no sexual activity between the partners since the beginning of middle age.
They try to be satisfied in their marriage by giving importance to other aspects like emotional closeness etc. These women tried to give more importance to having more emotional experiences with their partner as they felt that this could lead to more attachment with them rather than having sexual intimacy. It was seen that in this age emotional experiences are prioritized over sexual experiences with the partner. No significant distress was seen among these women due to a decline in sexual activity as they had accepted it as a part of their aging process.
Even confusion was seen around how women perceived the meaning of sexuality as there were a variety of responses and most of them relate it to sexual intercourse. Also, attachment issues were seen surrounding the marital relationship during this age as women reported a decrease in attachment with their partner and lack of belongingness which marked negative changes in their relationship. Early cross-sectional surveys of marital satisfaction suggested that marital satisfaction declines steadily during the first 10 years of marriage From these findings we can infer that marital satisfaction tends to decline further with more time passing as seen in the results of the present study. With increasing years of marital relationship, the power distribution between the couple tends to be equalized in terms of taking decisions and other related aspects.
Male dominance is perceived as a myth whereas balance is maintained in the informal distribution of power between both. The third important theme that emerged from the data was changed in the familial role of women during the stage of transition. Carstensen, Pasupathi, Mayr & Nesselroade (2000) in their study found that middle-aged people tend to experience more positive emotions as compared to negative ones as noted by the difference in the frequency of occurrence of both types of emotions.
These results are in congruence with the results of the present study where it was found that most of the women felt satisfied in their new phase of life. The sense of satisfaction was seen in different aspects like family life, job, qualities of a partner, etc. Some of the women even related age and well-being as positively correlated because it was seen that most of the women reported an increase in subjective well-being in this phase of their life.
They start feeling good as the participants reported that they have so many good things to cherish in their life which brings about consistency in their lifestyle. Evidence was also found for the negative emotions like sadness and tension as experienced by some of the women which were due to their negative life experiences like unfulfilled responsibilities, negative changes in intimate relationships, etc. although these emotions were reported less frequently as compared to the positive ones.
The results of the present study indicate that the feelings of women during the transitional phase are affected by their life experiences. Culture does not seem to play an active role in affecting the feelings of these women. In their study found that there is a strong association between psychosocial factors and depressive symptoms among women in their middle age irrespective of their ethnicity. These results highlight the importance of certain psychosocial factors that can predispose an individual towards the development of depressive symptoms.
The fourth important theme that emerged from the present research is changing in the familial role of women. When women begin their midlife they experience a change in their role as a family members. Some women start feeling themselves as a significant member of the family while taking an active part in the decision-making process whereas some women start feeling left out of the family and start having an outsider feeling.
Even the changing times and advancements also contributed to minimal interactions between the family members, therefore, increasing the distance between them. In their study found that during midlife there is a change in familial roles of working women as they start identifying more with their parental role and start taking an active part in their children’s lives like taking decisions etc. This makes them feel like a significant part of the family In his research stated that with changing times and the introduction of technology there have been changes in the levels of family satisfaction.
The present research findings also suggest that the interaction between the family members has decreased as it was reported that people are over-involved in their lives. These changes in the family pattern did not cause any distress to the participants as they had accepted this as a part of their life. Empirical research in this area found that negative life events or changes have less impact on the lives of women during this age when compared with positive life events or changes.
Throughout the research findings, it was seen that women had very well adjusted in their new phase of life although negative changes were reported they had adjusted with these changes appropriately. They tried to even compensate for these with some positive things. Overall no distress was found among the participants. Although confusion was seen around some of the concepts related to their age as they did not have a clear understanding of it. During midlife, many women face a lot of issues concerning their health and well-being. They get concerned about their identity, self-esteem, and physical vulnerability to various diseases.
Moreover, they feel insecure about their social attractiveness due to declining age. They try to be satisfied in their marriage by giving importance to other aspects like emotional closeness, intimacy, etc. (Lodge & Umberson, 2012). Loss of sexual interest is also attributed to the physical changes that occur due to menopause during this age.
They experience sexuality as being holistic and complex. As the life experiences of women change during midlife thus they also impact their sexual experiences (Patricia & Phyllis 2002). Women In their midlife feel vulnerable and are also irritated by their aging bodies. The most evident area in which women report loss and change in their midlife is their sexuality (Banister, 1999). They often find it difficult to accept the fact that they are aging (Saucier, 2004).
The transitional phase from adulthood to midlife is affected by a lot of things like family characteristics, employment characteristics, etc. most of the changes that occur during midlife are unconscious to the women experiencing them. Women do not attribute certain changes to a particular age, according to them these changes were more affected by the quality of life and how satisfied they were with life.
Some of the women even related age and well-being as positively correlated (Degges-White & Myers, 2006). Society also plays an active role in the experiences of women during this age. They dislike the feeling that life is winding down and are also concerned about how society perceives them (McQuaide, 1998).
Interaction between the women’s perception of their bodies and other factors influence their transitional phase and even their thought pattern. Most of the women believe that realities are culturally constructed and they interpret the changes based on these realities and they affect health indirectly.
Most of the women are not aware of the changes happening during midlife which causes ambiguity and confusion in them around this phase (Banister,1999).
It was seen that there was a shift in the personal paradigm of individuals either because of inner push or the external circumstances and demands due to change in familial life at middle age (O'Connor & Wolfe, 1991). Aging is perceived differently by all individuals due to their subjective experiences and it was seen that short term aging perception is more different than the long term perception of aging.
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