Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Early Adulthood (19–40)

What are the challenges of becoming a parent in early adulthood?

The transition to parenthood demands one of the largest psychological transformations in adulthood. Although young adults may be living entirely independently, with an established career and a mature set of social relationships, they may still think of themselves as “a kid” and not “a real adult.” When a person becomes a parent, this illusion is shattered. A small, helpless baby is utterly dependent on the new parent and there is no more hiding from the reality of adult responsibilities. Most people find that, for the first time in their lives, their responsibility to another person is as great, or greater, than their responsibility to themselves. While this level of self-sacrifice can be very stressful for new parents, especially very young ones, many experience it as an opportunity for tremendous growth and maturity. It can be life enhancing to be less self-centered. However, as with most aspects of early adult development, our changing culture has taken away clear guidelines.

Although many parents happily take advantage of the flood of available books and articles on parenting, new parents face inevitable uncertainty when making decisions about how to raise their children. At the same time, many new parents renegotiate their relationship with their own parents, gaining new appreciation for their knowledge and experience. Families tend to get closer when a new baby arrives as grandparents become involved with the new family, often helping out with childcare.


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