Midlife in the 2020s: Opportunities and challenges

Frank J. Infurna, Denis Gerstorf, Margie E. Lachman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Development is a cumulative, lifelong process, but strikingly little is known about development in midlife. As a consequence, many misconceptions exist about the nature of midlife and the developmental milestones and challenges faced by middle-aged adults. We first review dominant views and empirical research that has debunked false narratives. Next, we discuss major opportunities and challenges of midlife. This includes the unique constellation of roles and life transitions that are distinct from earlier and later life phases as well as shifting trends in mental and physical health and in family composition. We additionally highlight the importance of (historical shifts in) intergenerational dynamics of middle-aged adults with their aging parents, adult children, and grandchildren; financial vulnerabilities that emerge and often accrue from economic failures and labor market volatility; the shrinking social and health care safety net; and the rising costs of raising children. In doing so, we discuss issues of diversity and note similarities and differences in midlife experiences across race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. We consider midlife as a pivotal period that includes a focus on balancing gains and losses, linking earlier and later life periods, and bridging generations. Finally, we propose possibilities for promoting reversibility and resilience with interventions and policy changes. The suggested agenda for future research promises to reconceptualize midlife as a key period of life, with a concerted effort to focus on the diversity of midlife experiences in order to meet the unprecedented challenges and opportunities in the 2020s and beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-485
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Current and dominant narratives
  • Financial vulnerabilities
  • Life span development
  • Policy implications
  • Promoting reversibility and resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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