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8.1: Introduction to Early Adulthood

Skills to Develop

  • Discuss the developmental tasks of early adulthood.
  • Describe physical development in early adulthood.
  • Explain how early adulthood is a healthy, yet risky time of life.
  • Summarize Levinson’s theory of adult transitions.
  • Distinguish between formal and postformal thought.
  • Explain dialectical thought.
  • Describe Erikson’s stage of intimacy vs. isolation.
  • Question Erikson’s assertion about the focus on intimacy in early adulthood.
  • Identify trends in mate selection, age at first marriage, and cohabitation in the United States.
  • Discuss fertility issues in early adulthood.
  • Explain social exchange theory of mate selection.
  • Define the principle of least interest.
  • Apply Sternberg’s theory of love to specific examples of relationships.
  • Apply Lee’s love styles to specific examples of relationships.
  • Compare frames of relationships.
  • Explain the wheel theory of love.
  • Explain the process of disaffection.
  • Describe some current concerns in education in today’s colleges.

Developmental Tasks of Early Adulthood

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Photo Courtesy of Joshua Gray

Early adulthood can be a very busy time of life. Havighurst (1972) describes some of the developmental tasks of young adults. These include:

  • Achieving autonomy: trying to establish oneself as an independent person with a life of one’s own
  • Establishing identity: more firmly establishing likes, dislikes, preferences, and philosophies
  • Developing emotional stability: becoming more stable emotionally which is considered a sign of maturing
  • Establishing a career: deciding on and pursuing a career or at least an initial career direction and pursuing an education
  • Finding intimacy: forming first close, long-term relationships
  • Becoming part of a group or community: young adults may, for the first time, become involved with various groups in the community. They may begin voting or volunteering to be part of civic organizations (scouts, church groups, etc.). This is especially true for those who participate in organizations as parents.
  • Establishing a residence and learning how to manage a household: learning how to budget and keep a home maintained.
  • Becoming a parent and rearing children: learning how to manage a household with children. Making marital adjustments and learning to parent.

Exercise:

To what extent do you think these have changed in the last several years? How might these tasks be different across cultures?

REFERENCES

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Sternberg, R. (1988). A triangular theory of love. New York: Basic.

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