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Jaques, E. (1965). Death and the Mid-Life Crisis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 46:502-514.

(1965). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 46:502-514

Death and the Mid-Life Crisis

Elliott Jaques

In the course of the development of the individual there are critical phases which have the character of change points, or periods of rapid transition. Less familiar perhaps, though nonetheless real, are the crises which occur around the age of 35—which I shall term the mid-life crisis—and at full maturity around the age of 65. It is the mid-life crisis with which I shall deal in this paper.

When I say that the mid-life crisis occurs around the age of 35, I mean that it takes place in the middle-thirties, that the process of transition runs on for some years, and that the exact period will vary among individuals. The transition is often obscured in women by the proximity of the onset of changes connected with the menopause. In the case of men, the change has from time to time been referred to as the male climacteric, because of the reduction in the intensity of sexual behaviour which often occurs at that time.

Crisis in Genius

I first became aware of this period as a critical stage in development when I noticed a marked tendency towards crisis in the creative work of great men in their middle and late thirties. It is clearly expressed by Richard Church in his autobiography The Voyage Home:

There seems to be a biological reason for men and women, when they reach the middle thirties, finding themselves beset with misgivings, agonizing inquiries, and a loss of zest. Is it that state which the medieval schoolmen called accidie, the cardinal sin of spiritual sloth? I believe it is.

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