Without doubt, the midlife crisis is the most popular concept describing middle adulthood. Facing the limitation of the time until death, men in particular are believed to pause from actively pursuing their goals and review their achievements, take stock of what they have and have not yet accomplished, at times taking drastic measures to fulfill their dreams. This paper critically discusses the concept of a midlife crisis and the relevant empirical evidence, presenting arguments for and against a strict, a moderate, and a lenient conceptualization of the midlife crisis. Although a strict and even moderate definition of the midlife crisis does not seem tenable on empirical and theoretical grounds, a lenient conceptualization has the potential to stimulate new research directions exemplifying processes of the interaction of social expectations on the one hand and personal goals on the other, and their importance for developmental regulation.

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