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Social Sci LibreTexts

7: Emerging and Early Adulthood

  • Page ID
    10221
  • Learning Objectives: Emerging Adulthood

    • Explain emerging adulthood
    • Explain how emerging adulthood differs from adolescence and adulthood
    • Describe cultural variations of emerging adulthood
    • Identify the markers of adulthood
    • Identify where emerging and early adults currently liv

    Historically, early adulthood spanned from approximately 18 (the end of adolescence) until 40 to 45 (beginning of middle adulthood). More recently, developmentalists have divided this age period into two separate stages: Emerging adulthood followed by early adulthood. Although these age periods differ in their physical, cognitive, and social development, overall the age period from 18 to 45 is a time of peak physical capabilities and the emergence of more mature cognitive development, financial independence, and intimate relationships.

    • 7.1: Emerging Adulthood
      Emerging adulthood is the period between the late teens and early twenties; ages 18-25, although some researchers have included up to age 29 in the definition. Jeffrey Arnett argues that emerging adulthood is neither adolescence nor is it young adulthood. Individuals in this age period have left behind the relative dependency of childhood and adolescence, but have not yet taken on the responsibilities of adulthood.
    • 7.2: When Does Adulthood Begin?
      Historically the process of becoming an adult was more clearly marked by rites of passage. For many individuals, marriage and becoming a parent were considered entry into adulthood. However, these role transitions are no longer considered as the important markers of adulthood.
    • 7.3: Physical Development in Early and Emerging Adulthood
      People in their mid-twenties to mid-forties are considered to be in early adulthood. By the time we reach early adulthood, our physical maturation is complete, although our height and weight may increase slightly. Those in their early twenties are probably at the peak of their physiological development, including muscle strength, reaction time, sensory abilities, and cardiac functioning. The reproductive system, motor skills, strength, and lung capacity are all operating at their best.
    • 7.4: A Healthy but Risky Time
      Doctor’s visits are less frequent in early adulthood than for those in midlife and late adulthood and are necessitated primarily by injury and pregnancy. However, the top five causes of death in emerging and early adulthood are non-intentional injury (including motor vehicle accidents), homicide, and suicide with cancer and heart disease completing the list. Rates of violent death (homicide, suicide, and accidents) are highest among young adult males, and vary by race and ethnicity.
    • 7.5: Gender
      Gender identity is a person's sense of self as a member of a particular gender. Individuals who identify with a role that corresponds to the sex assigned to them at birth (e.g.,, they were born with male sex characteristics, were assigned as a boy, and identify today as a boy or man) are cisgender. Those who identify with a role that is different from their biological sex are often referred to as transgender.
    • 7.6: Sexuality
      Human sexuality refers to people's sexual interest in and attraction to others, as well as their capacity to have erotic experiences and responses. Sexuality may be experienced and expressed in a variety of ways, including thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, practices, roles, and relationships. These may manifest themselves in biological, physical, emotional, social, or spiritual aspects.
    • 7.7: Cognitive Development in Emerging and Early Adulthood
      According to Piaget’s theory adolescents acquire formal operational thought. The hallmark of this type of thinking is the ability to think abstractly or to consider possibilities and ideas about circumstances never directly experienced. Thinking abstractly is only one characteristic of adult thought, however. If you compare a 15 year-old with someone in their late 30s, you would probably find that the latter considers not only what is possible, but also what is likely. Why the change?
    • 7.8: Education and a Career
      College is an important aspect of the lives of many young adults in the United States, with 36% of 18 to 24 year olds and 7% of 25 to 49 year olds attending college. More than half of those 25 and older (59%) have completed some college, and 1 in 3 (32.5%) have a bachelor’s degree or higher, with slightly more women (33%) than men (32%) holding a college degree. Fifty-six percent of four-year college students earn a Bachelor’s degree within six years.
    • 7.9: Psychosocial Development in Emerging and Early Adulthood
      Chess and Thomas (1987), who identified children as easy, difficult, slow-to-warm-up or blended, found that children identified as easy grew up to became well-adjusted adults, while those who exhibited a difficult temperament were not as well-adjusted as adults. Infants exposed to unfamiliarity reacted strongly to the stimuli and cried loudly, pumped their limbs, and had an increased heart rate. Research has indicated that these highly reactive children show temperamental stability into early ch
    • 7.10: Attachment in Young Adulthood
      Hazan and Shaver (1987) described the attachment styles of adults, using the same three general categories proposed by Ainsworth’s research on young children; secure, avoidant, and anxious/ambivalent. Bartholomew (1990) challenged the categorical view of attachment in adults and suggested that adult attachment was best described as varying along two dimensions; attachment related-anxiety and attachment-related avoidance.
    • 7.11: Factors Influencing Attraction
      Because most of us enter into a close relationship at some point, it is useful to know what psychologists have learned about the principles of liking and loving. A major interest of psychologists is the study of interpersonal attraction, or what makes people like, and even love, each other.
    • 7.12: Friendship
      In our twenties, intimacy needs may be met in friendships rather than with partners. This is especially true in the United States today as many young adults postpone making long-term commitments to partners, either in marriage or in cohabitation. The kinds of friendships shared by women tend to differ from those shared by men. Friendships between men are more likely to involve sharing information, providing solutions, or focusing on activities rather than discussion problems or emotions.
    • 7.13: Love
      Sternberg (1988) suggests that there are three main components of love: Passion, intimacy, and commitment. Love relationships vary depending on the presence or absence of each of these components. Passion refers to the intense, physical attraction partners feel toward one another. Intimacy involves the ability the share feelings, personal thoughts and psychological closeness with the other. Commitment is the conscious decision to stay together.
    • 7.14: Adult Lifestyles
      United States demographic changes have significantly affected the romantic relationships among emerging and early adults. As previously described, the age for puberty has declined, while the times for one’s first marriage and first child have been pushed to older ages. This results in a “historically unprecedented time gap where young adults are physiologically able to reproduce, but not psychologically or socially ready to settle down and begin a family and child rearing.”
    • 7.15: Intimate Partner Abuse
      Violence in romantic relationships is a significant concern for women in early adulthood as females aged 18 to 34 generally experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence.  Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 59 men have been raped in their lifetime. Almost 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, while 1 in 7 men have experienced the same.
    • 7.16: Parenthood
      Parenthood is undergoing changes in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Children are less likely to be living with both parents, and women in the United States have fewer children than they did previously. The average fertility rate of women in the United States was about seven children in the early 1900s and has remained relatively stable at 2.1 since the 1970s. Not only are parents having fewer children, the context of parenthood has also changed.
    • 7.R: Emerging and Early Adulthood (References)