Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Early Adulthood (19–40)

What does it entail to embark on an occupational role?

One of the cardinal features of young adulthood is the assumption of adult responsibilities within society. In modern Western society, this generally involves taking on a role in the work force, deciding on and embarking upon an occupational path. At earlier points in history, there was little choice in one’s occupation. Men often did what their fathers did and women got married and raised children.

In modern industrialized societies, however, this is no longer true. For most members of society, there is a smorgasbord of occupational choices, and young adults can often feel bewildered by the sheer number of options. One’s choice of occupation has far-reaching implications for one’s personal identity, social role, financial well-being, and general quality of life. Unfortunately, there is little definitive information upon which to make such important decisions. Consequently, young adults make choices based on stereotyped views of success and career gratification, with little life experience of their own to guide them. The perceived number of options is also a function of education and social class.

Not all adolescents will feel that high-status and high-income professions are available for them. Nonetheless, the choice to complete high school and even to enter some form of post-secondary education is possible for many members of Western society. Thus, across socioeconomic groups, young adults must grapple with the task of choosing an occupational path.


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