Midlife value change and identity achievement as factors in career transitions: A study of male midlife theology students

Date of Completion

January 1996


Education, Adult and Continuing|Psychology, Developmental




Many men undergo a transition at midlife that involves a shift in values. As the period of early adulthood draws to a close, they begin to question the culturally-prescribed, instrumentally-oriented success values that motivated the selection and pursuit of their first career, The value shift is away from instrumental goals and processes and toward a more expressive, emotionally flexible, and altruistic orientation. This shift has been identified as an important factor in midcareer transitions.^ The purpose of this study was to determine if value change exists as described in the literature and to assess its role in midlife career transitions.^ Fifteen male, Caucasian theology students who had left business careers for the ministry were purposefully selected to be interviewed. This investigation found that all the respondents had experienced some degree of shift from instrumentalism to expressiveness. However, the study found that this value shift alone did not provide a satisfactory explanation for the men's career changes. Expressive values were found to be an affective component of the more fundamental core religious values that had emerged at midlife, around which the men formed an identity. Identity achievement was found to be the major factor in the men's career changes.^ The respondents' core religious values were found to be grounded in their childhood religious socialization. The study describes in detail how the men "drifted" into their business careers, succeeded, and ultimately came to the decision to leave behind cultural success values in favor of the core values of their authentic identities. Additional findings and suggestions for further research are presented. ^