Psychology: Posts

May Author of the Month: Lea Pulkkinen

Lea Pulkkinen, author of Human Development from Middle Childhood to Middle Adulthood, is our Routledge Psychology Author of the Month! Read our exclusive interview and learn more about her fantastic new book!

"There is a tendency to highlight the importance of cognitive achievements and socioeconomic background for people’s success in the future. This book highlights the associations of socioemotional development and personality with the quality of functioning in the different domains of life."

My aim was to offer a broader picture of human development than can be found in single articles. Over the past 50 years, more than 300 research articles were published and theses prepared from the JYLS data, each of them having its limited focus. As the founder of this longitudinal study I have insights of its goals and procedures from its inception. I started this study with criticism of the lack of understanding of children’s positive behavior. I developed theoretical ideas of it, and continued to test them for tens of years. The data has been available to colleagues for also testing their own ideas. In this book, a synthesis of the results has been built.

I hope readers will notice that self-regulation is a so called non-cognitive core capacity for psychological and social functioning from childhood to middle age. Early indicators of positive functioning are seen in constructive ways of coping with problems, positive thinking, and consideration of others. This kind of behavior at age 8 predicted lower dropout from education, a higher number of years of employment and fewer years of unemployment, and higher occupational attainment, even higher income in middle age; a good marital quality; and resilient personality which was associated with mental well-being. In general, characteristics of self-regulation are associated with people’s different paths to adulthood.

There is a tendency to highlight the importance of cognitive achievements and socioeconomic background for people’s success in the future. This book highlights the associations of socioemotional development and personality with the quality of functioning in the different domains of life.

A common misconception is that the important developmental processes and events all take place before adulthood. However, personality and its capacities develop through adulthood. Steering one’s life in adulthood demands self-reflection and coping with changes of roles and living conditions. Middle-aged people tend to be discriminated in labor market and mislabeled with midlife crisis. In reality, middle age is experienced as a prime time. Middle-aged people are active in many spheres of life and their mental and physical well-being is good.

I started the study with children 50 years ago and it is with pleasure that I have returned to childhood after a long journey. My interests are in the transformation of findings into policy for improving the quality of life in childhood and adulthood. For activities, see https://haukkalafoundation.wordpress.com/

The present Principal Investigator of the JYLS is Katja Kokko, Research Director at the Gerontology Research Centre of the University of Jyväskylä, and she intends to continue the longitudinal study. See: http://www.fsd.uta.fi/en/data/background/jyls/

Lea Pulkkinen, PhD, is Professor of Psychology Emerita at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. For more than 40 years, she has conducted the Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development (JYLS). The JYLS project, which began in 1968, comprises several follow-up studies of the same individuals from age 8 to 50 in the multitude of domains of life such as personality and well-being, education and work, family, health, and antisocial behavior. The duration, intensity, comprehensiveness and psychological richness of the study are exceptional.


For more information, visit Lea's website http://users.jyu.fi/~leapulkk/.

Human Development from Middle Childhood to Middle Adulthood

  • Human Development from Middle Childhood to Middle Adulthood

    Growing Up to be Middle-Aged

    By Lea Pulkkinen

    This seminal work focuses on human development from middle childhood to middle adulthood, through analysis of the research findings of the groundbreaking Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Personality and Social Development (JYLS). The JYLS project, which began in 1968, has generated extensive…

    Paperback – 2017-05-23
    Psychology Press