According to Erik Erikson’s stages of human development, a young adult is a person between the ages of 19 and 40, whereas an adolescent is a person who is between the ages of 12 and 21. The following stage in human development is known as middle adulthood. This person is between the ages of 41 and 65. In maturity, or late adulthood, the person is between the ages of 65 years or older.
Young adulthood, also known as early adulthood, is characterized by a desire to try new ways of doing things and by changing your relationship with your parents. In the beginning of adulthood, many people believe that they must live the way their parents do in order to survive. Some also assume that they will always have their parents to fall back on if they fail. Eventually, young adults learn to become independent and take responsibility for their own actions. Studies have shown that, in the United States, becoming independent from parental authority is a key goal of development for most young adult men. Women are usually less concerned with being independent. They seem to be more interested in creating new relationships with other people. However, many women in their 20s become independent and develop as individuals.
People in their 20s often believe that they have chosen the course in life that is perfect for them. When they reach their 30s, however, they begin to rethink their decisions and worry that they may not have chosen the right course. Some people often change jobs. People who are working from home may get the urge to get back out into the working world. And couples who do not have children may consider starting a family. Women are more likely to reassess their choices in life. A lot of times, women begin to think about the biological changes that lie ahead. They may become concerned with how many years they have to bear children, especially if they do not have any children yet.
After everything that people consider in their early 30s, the late 30s are more likely than not characterized by settling down. They may increase their financial and emotional investments they make in their lives. Many get promotions or pay raises. Also, they become more interested on advancing their careers and gaining stability in their lives. Not every individual experiences all of these tasks. And if they do, not everyone follows them in a specific order. Many people today choose to remain single or postpone.
An important part of adolescence and young adulthood is to develop your identity. Who you are and what you stand for. Identity brings the personal stability that is needed to form lasting relationships. According to Erik Erikson, the key task of young adulthood is forming relationships.
Relationships can be extremely difficult to keep when one or both of the people do not have personal stability. This may be the main reason why teen marriages suffer a higher divorce rate than adult marriages. However, young adults who have developed a firm sense of identity during adolescence may be ready to join their lives with those of other people through friendships and marriage. Erikson believed that people who do not develop intimate relationships may risk falling into a pattern of isolation and loneliness. An intimate relationship does not necessarily mean that it is a physical relationship. It is, rather, a trusting, close friendship with another person in which one can be honest without a fear of being rejected. Most people in the U.S. marry. Only about one in four people over eighteen has never been married. However, more and more people are beginning to delay marriage in favor of pursuing educational and career goals. In the past twenty five years, the age most men get married has risen to about 23 to 27 and the age most women get married has risen to about 21 to 25 years old.
In many Western cultures, men traditionally play the dominant role in marriage as well as in society. This was known as a patriarchy. Over the past several decades, however, spouses are now more likely to be considered equal partners in a marriage. Marital roles are still changing in today’s society. Some couples, however, still adhere to the old ways where the man makes the money and the women stays home and takes care of the home and children. Sometimes, these roles are even reversed. Most people marry for love. The concept of romantic love is a reason for marriage; however, this was not always how things went. In the 1600s and 1700s, most marriages were arranged by the parents of the bride and groom, based on how the marriage would benefit the two families. Another purpose of marriage was to provide a stable home life in which to have children. Today, however, companionship and intimacy are central goals in most marriages. Research shows that most young adults firmly believe that marriage should be a lifetime commitment.
Unlike in times past, in which young marriages were arranged by the families, today many young people choose their own mates. Parents do sometimes, however, have some say in who their children are with. People may also be influenced in their marital decisions by factors such as ethnicity, level of education, social class, and religion. People usually marry people who are similar to who they are. People also tend to like their mates in race and religion. Less that three percent of marriages are between people of different races. The majority of marriages are between people of the same religion. Many partners also tend to be similar in physical attractiveness, attitudes, personality traits, and intelligence. They are also usually similar in height and race. Plus, people tend to choose mates who are near the same age as their own. People who marry later in life or who remarry, however, are less likely to select partners who are close in age.
Although most couples marry for love, many marriages end up in divorce or permanent separation. The most common reasons for divorce are problems in communication and lack of understanding. The divorce rate in the U.S. rose steadily through much of the 20th century before leveling off in the 80s. About one fourth of the children in the U.S., under the age of 18, live in single parent households.
Divorce is a very common occurrence, even in people who believe marriage is a lifetime commitment. One reason may be that divorce has become much easier than it used to be. If both partners agree on issues of child custody, financial support, and the distribution of the couple’s assets, the marriage is legally dissolved.
The increased economic independence of women also may have some responsibility for the rise in the divorce rate. Increasingly high expectations may also be contributing to the high divorce rate. Many people enter marriage believing it will be easy. They’re wrong. Of course, there are many other reasons why people get divorced. These reasons include spouse abuse, child abuse, and infidelity, strains brought about by illness or financial problems, or an inability to communicate effectively.
Divorce can be extremely difficult for children. Even when the children are almost adults, a divorce can be very difficult. Some research shows that almost half of all the children of divorced parents experience problems such as anxiety, poor grades, low self-esteem, and anger. Many children also blame themselves for their parents divorce. Some effects of divorce on children are not quickly evident. It may seem that some children adjust well to divorce. In early adulthood, however, they may find it hard to trust the commitment of a possible partner. This may cause them to be reluctant in starting a relationship. This delayed reaction is called the “sleeper effect.”
Middle adulthood spans the years from 40 to 65. By their 40s, people begin to lose some of the strength, coordination, and stamina they had in their 20s and 30s.
Erik Erikson believed that the biggest challenge for middle-aged adults is generativity. This is the ability to create, originate, and produce. According to him, generativity adds to the lives of adults, and helps them maintain and enhance their self-esteem.
Adults can be very creative in various areas of their lives, such as their career, their family, and their community. People in middle adulthood are often in positions in which they can exercise a particularly important influence on the world around them. They might improve methods and relationships in the workplace. As parents, they guide the next generation. Erikson also believed that adults who are not generative become stagnant. Stagnation is the lack of advancement or development. This can develop in feelings of emptiness and meaninglessness.
The midlife transition is a period in middle adulthood when people’s perspectives change in a major way. Some adults are struck with the realization that they have lived half of their lives. They see themselves as being at a turning point. Once the midlife transition occurs, people begin to view their lives in how many years they have left to live.
Women tend to undergo their midlife transitions about five years before men do, at about age 35 instead of 40. Why are the mid 30s so special for women? For some women, 35 is about the age when they send their youngest child off to grade school. This event can illustrate that their children are growing up. Many women, however, are not finished or have not yet started having children. For women who have children after 35, doctors recommend routine fetal testing for Down Syndrome and other chromosomal disorders.
In some people, the midlife transition may trigger another period of reassessment. This is called a midlife crisis. The middle aged adult who sees younger people advancing at a faster rate may become seriously depressed. A parent with more than one teenager may feel less needed by their children.
The concept of midlife crisis has often been treated as something generally negative. It suggests that people are overwhelmed by the realities and limits of their lives. Journalist Gail Sheehy is very positive about the years from 45 to 65. She refers to these years as “age of mastery”. Sheehy believes that during these years people are frequently at the height of their creative and productive powers. She believes that the key task for middle-aged adults is to decide what they will do with the rest of their lives.
The term middlescence is sometimes used to describe a period of searching that in some ways resembles adolescence. They are both periods of transition. The key task for adolescence is the formation of identity in becoming an adult. The key take for middlescence involves a search for a new identity, or second adulthood. By the time they reach their 40s, women have already dealt with some of the fears and uncertainties that are only just starting to confront men. As women emerge from middlescence in their 40s and 50s, they often experience a renewed sense of self. Many women feel confident and secure. They have committed to what they are doing and feel productive, effective, and powerful.
Empty-nest syndrome is the term used to describe the feelings of emptiness and loss mothers supposedly feel after their children have left home. To mothers who have never worked outside the home, the transition is particularly hard. After years of being totally committed to being a wife and mother, some women seem to lose their sense of purpose and become depressed after their children leave home.
However, many women report that when their children move out they are happier with their marriage and other aspects of their lives. Many women mention positive changes such as greater peace of mind, self-confidence, and personal stability. Many middle-aged women become more self-assertive and achievement oriented. There is much variation though. Some women may feel hopeless and drained. But more often then not, middle age is a time of increased freedom. Many begin to travel.
Menopause, the end of menstruation, usually occurs in women’s late 40s or early 50s. It is caused by the decrease in the secretion of the hormone estrogen and pro-estrogen. Women can no longer produce egg cells that can be fertilized. Breast tissue decreases, and the skin become less elastic. There can also be a loss in bone density. This is a condition call osteoporosis.
There is also a psychological meaning to menopause. Some women may feel that they have become less attractive or even that they are losing their identity as women.
When women are referred to as “menopausal,” it is usually the mood swings and increased irritability that are being talked about.
Do men experience menopause? Actually, yes they do. At about age 40 or 50, testosterone levels in men being to decline. It does not resemble the sharp plunge in estrogen levels that women experience. The decline in a man’s testosterone level may be connected with such other age-related changes as loss of strength, weight gain, reduced energy, and decreased fertility. Some of these changes, however, could just as well be due to a gradual loss of the human growth hormone rather than a diminishing testosterone level.
Age 65 sparks the beginning of late adulthood. People are living longer than ever before. Some people view the later years as the beginning of the end of life. In fact, the later years provide many opportunities for self-fulfillment.
Many physical changes take place in late adulthood. Wrinkles occur and the skin becomes less elastic. Some of the senses become less sharp. In general, older people can not see or hear as well as younger adults. The reflexes and reaction time of older people also tend to be a little slower than those of younger people.
A few physical changes can cause health problems. As bones become more brittle, they become easier to fracture. As people grow older, their immune systems become less effective as a barrier against disease.
However, older people can do many things to maintain their health, strength, and energy levels. Regular exercise and healthful diet can help older people fight disease and make them feel well. Exercise helps maintain flexibility and fitness at any age.
Programmed theories are the developmental theories that maintain that aging is the result of genetics. These theories of aging view people as having biological clocks that move forward at a predetermined pace. Studies show that people with parents who had long lives are also likely to live long lives.
Some older adults occasionally experience memory loss, but this is not serious. Serious loss of cognitive functioning is called a dementia. People with dementia show major losses in memory. They may develop speech problems or be unable to perform simple tasks.
Dementia that occurs after the age of 65 is called senile dementia. Most cases occur in people over the age of 80. Aging, however, does not cause dementia. As the life expectancy of the population has increased, dementia had become more frequent simply because there is now more time in people’s life spans for it to occur.
The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. This disease affects about 10 percent of people in the U.S. over the age of 65. The risk increases with age.
Aging also involved many social changes. People have to make decisions about their retirement, how much time to spend with their children and grandchildren, and where they should live.
Many people dream of retirement. Where they do not have to wake up early in the morning and go to work. Other people dread the idea, wondering what they will do with their time. It is, however, voluntary. But people in some professions, must retire when they reach a certain age.
Grandparents often have more relaxed relationships with their grandchildren than their children. Their perspectives may have grown broader as they have grown older.
Erik Erikson believed that people in late adulthood face certain developmental tasks. He believed that one challenge is the maintenance of ego integrity. Ego integrity is the belief that life is meaningful and worthwhile even when physical abilities are not what they used to be. A person with ego integrity is able to accept his or her approaching death as part of life.
Many people in their 70s report being largely satisfied with their lives. More than 75 percent rate their health as good or excellent. Older people tend to be more satisfied with their lives when they are in good health and when they are financially secure. They tend to worry less, and their stress is reduced.
Dying people, like other people, need security, self-confidence, and dignity. They may need relief from pain. They need to feel supported and cared for. The knowledge that one’s final wishes will be carried out can help the dying person gain a sense of peace and completion.