Early and Middle Adulthood
Early and middle adulthood stages are occupied by many age-related changes, especially in social and intimate relationship development. It is in early and middle adulthood that romantic relationships start to develop into more committed and serious ones. Adults in the early and middle stages experience changes in their social and intimate relationships, transition in roles, and make various healthy or unhealthy choices that may have a significant impact on their current and future lives.
The development of healthy social and intimate relationships is a major task in the early and middle adulthood stages. In early adulthood, most people start by exploring various personal relationships (Cherry, 2019). Exploring may include dating several people in an attempt to identify the qualities they like in partners. The young adults also aim to blend their personal, romantic, and career lives, leading to delayed commitment into stable or long-term relationships (Kansky, 2018). These adults may choose to remain single or engage in a series of causal dating non-committal relationships as they pursue their school or work goals.
Middle adulthood is characterized by different changes in social and intimate relationships. There is an increase in the level of commitment and stability of intimate relations (Kansky, 2018). Many intimate relationships lead to marriage or cohabitation rather than casual dating seen in early adulthood. The ability to develop intimate and social relationships is boosted by having a strong sense of identity (Cherry, 2019). The formation of close and committed intimate relationships in early adulthood contributes to the wellbeing of the person in middle adulthood (Kansky, 2018). Without meaningful social or intimate relationships during early adulthood, the middle-aged adult is subject to loneliness, emotional seclusion, and depression.
In early adulthood, changes in major roles are observed which may go all the way to middle adulthood. Role transitions include completion of studies, living independently, acquiring a job, the formation of intimate relationships, having a family, and parenthood (Piotrowski, Brzezińska, & Luyckx, 2018). Family role changes include moving out to start their life endeavors independently, and changes in family formation including cohabitation, which may lead to marriage and parenting in later adulthood. Another major transition is noted in the socio-economic roles in young adulthood. The changing socio-economic roles have increased as many young adults are choosing to study and work to become financially independent. These changes in the socio-economic roles for young adults have an impact on middle adulthood because education increases employment opportunities.
The adulthood stage is characterized by increased independence and the ability of individuals to make choices on major life decisions. Some tend to make healthy choices that may contribute to their well-being or future success. For instance, a healthy choice of positive relationships can improve education achievement, lead to healthy marriages, and good mental health. However, adults also make unhealthy choices such as increased drug use, criminal activity, and poor dietary choices that may harm their health and development (Wood et al., 2018). Poor relationship choices may lead to substance addiction, rape, or school dropout. These unhealthy choices can have an immediate effect on the mental health of adults, and a lifetime impact on the proper development of the emerging adult.
Early and middle adulthood is a period of major life changes. Maintaining intimacy in romantic relationships is a central developmental perspective in young adulthood, which is linked to their physical and mental health in the future whereas social relationships influence their wellbeing through their lifespan. The healthy and unhealthy habits of adults also determine the emerging adult development outcomes
Cherry, K. (2019). Understanding Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Retrieved 4 February 2020, from https://www.verywellmind.com/erik-eriksons-stages-of-psychosocial-development-2795740
Kansky, J. (2018). What’s love got to do with it? Romantic relationships and well-being. In E. Diener, S. Oishi, & L. Tay (Eds.), Handbook of well-being. Salt Lake City, UT: DEF Publishers.
Piotrowski, K., Brzezińska, A. I., & Luyckx, K. (2018). Adult roles as predictors of adult identity and identity commitment in Polish emerging adults: Psychosocial maturity as an intervening variable. Current Psychology. doi: 10.1007/s12144-018-9903-x
Wood, D., Crapnell, T., Lau, L., Bennett, A., Lotstein, D., Ferris, M., & Kuo, A. (2018). Emerging adulthood as a critical stage in the life course. In: Halfon, N., Forrest, C. B., Lerner, R. M., & Faustman, E. M. (Eds.) Handbook of Life Course Health Development. Cham: Springer International Publishing.