Daniel Levinson

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For the head of the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, see Daniel R. Levinson.
Daniel J. Levinson
Born (1920-05-28)May 28, 1920
New York City
Died April 12, 1994(1994-04-12) (aged 73)
New Haven, Connecticut
Occupation Psychologist
Known for Positive Adult Development

Daniel J. Levinson (May 28, 1920 – April 12, 1994), a psychologist, was one of the founders of the field of Positive Adult Development. Levinson is known for his research in the area of adult development, and his theory of Stage-Crisis View, which outlines stages throughout one's life and developmental tasks or crises that occur in each stage.

Levinson used intense interviews with men and women to find patterns that occur in similar age ranges, and he published his findings and theory in two books, "The Seasons of a Man's Life" and "The Seasons of a Woman's Life".[1]

Early life[edit]

Daniel Levinson married Judy Levinson, with whom he had two sons. Judy Levinson collaborated with Daniel Levinson on The Seasons of a Woman’s Life, and she continued Levinson’s work after his death in New Haven, Connecticuit, on April 12, 1994.[2]

Academic career[edit]

He was born in New York City on May 28, 1920. He completed his dissertation at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1947, on the measurement of ethnocentrism. In 1950, he moved to Harvard University. He was involved the Harvard Psychological Clinic, led by Henry Murray, and the Department of Social Relations, where he worked with colleagues such as Erik Erikson, Robert W. White, Talcott Parsons, Gordon Allport, and Alex Inkeles. From 1966 to 1990, he was a professor of psychology at Yale University School of Medicine. His work on positive adult development built upon that of Erik Erikson, Elliott Jaques, and Bernice Neugarten.

Professional life[edit]

Levinson completed his dissertation on ethnocentrism at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1947.[3] Following this, he conducted research on personality, specifically authoritarian personalities at Berkeley and Western Reserve University.[3] In 1950, Levinson shifted his career to Harvard University, and began to examine the interaction between personality and organizational settings.[3] While at Harvard, Levinson worked with colleagues including Erik Erikson, Robert White, Talcott Parsons, Gordon Allport, and Alex Inkeles.[3] Also during his 12 years at Harvard, Levinson published around 36 articles and books in a wide variety of topics, including personality and institutional policy, foreign policy, professional identity, mental health administration, and social change.[3]

Levinson further advanced his academic career at Yale University from 1966 to 1990.[3] During this time, Levinson shifted his research attention to adult development.[3] Levinson worked with colleagues including Charlotte Darrow, Edward Klein, Maria Levinson, and Braxton McKee while at Yale, and his research focused on interviewing 40 middle-aged men about their lives.[3] Using the information gathered from these interviews, Levinson wrote the book The Seasons of a Man’s Life. Following this, Levinson conducted a similar study for women, and wrote The Seasons of a Woman’s Life shortly before his death in New Haven, Connecticuit, on April 12, 1994.[3]

Research on adult behavior and development[edit]

Stage-crisis view[edit]

Levinson created his theory of Stage-Crisis View by conducting extensive interviews of mean and woman aged 35 to 45 and looking for common patterns throughout their lives.[1] From his research, Levinson described specific stages of life from childhood to old age, each of which he suggested has a developmental task or crisis that needs to be resolved. Levinson believed that the pre-adulthood stage, early adulthood transition, early adulthood stage, midlife transition, middle adulthood stage, late adulthood transition, and late adulthood stage made up a person's life.[4] Levinson also believed that the midlife crisis was a common and normal part of development.[4]The Stage-Crisis View theory has been criticized due to Levinson's research methods. Levinson studied men and women who were all in the same age group, making his results and conclusions subject to cohort effects.[5]

Theory of men and women[edit]

Levinson believed that the main difference between men and women was “The Dream,” which refers to one’s vision for his or her future life, including goals and desires.[1] Based on findings from his interviews with men and women, Levinson argued that men and women form different types of dreams for their lives: men typically dream about occupation, while women, who have more trouble forming their dreams, are torn between dreams of occupation and dreams of marriage and family.[1]

Major contributions[edit]

Levinson's two most important books were Seasons of a Man's Life (with Maria H. Levinson, Charlotte N. Darrow, Edward B. Klein and Braxton McKee) and Seasons of a Woman's Life, which both continue to be highly influential works. His multidisciplinary approach is reflected in his work on the Life Structure theory of adult development. Many of the central ideas in Seasons of a Man's Life were published by Gail Sheehy who interviewed Levinson for her book Passages. Sheehy had access to Levinson's research in progress, and published her book before Seasons of a Man's Life' using some of Levinson's findings.

Daniel Levinson died on April 12, 1994 in New Haven, Connecticut. His wife Judy Levinson carried on his work.


  • Levinson, D. J., with Darrow, C. N, Klein, E. B. & Levinson, M. (1978). Seasons of a Man's Life. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-394-40694-X
  • Levinson, D. J., with Levinson, J. D. (1996). Seasons of a Woman's Life. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-53235-X



  1. ^ a b c d Brown, Patricica Leigh (14 September 1987). "Studying Seasons of a Woman's Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  2. ^ "Daniel Levinson, 73, who wrote of men reacting to midlife". The New York Times. April 14, 1994. Retrieved 6 November 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gersick, Kelin E; Newton, Peter M (March 1996). "Obituary: Daniel J. Levinson (1920–1994)". American Psychologist 51 (3): 262. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.51.3.262. 
  4. ^ a b Levinson, Daniel; Darrow, Charlotte N.; Klein, Edward B.; Levinson, Maria H.; McKee, Braxton (1986). The Seasons of a Man's Life. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-345-33901-0. 
  5. ^ Berger, Kathleen Stassen (2014). Invitation to the Lifespan (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.