Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

Early Adulthood (19–40)

What happens if these challenges are not met?

The transition out of adolescence into young adulthood presents challenges on a number of levels. Young people must establish a multi-faceted adult identity, commit to deeper and more mature relationships, and take on financial, emotional, and social responsibilities. In so doing, the young adult opens up opportunities for great satisfaction and fulfillment, for greater control and empowerment, and for improved social status and respect. However, each of these developments entails sacrifices. In effect, growing up means giving up: the security of depending on parents, the freedom of a life without commitment and responsibility, and the illusion that it is possible to avoid failure. These present real psychological challenges and few young adults progress smoothly along each line of development.

It is normal to have some spottiness across different developmental lines. However, it is far more problematic if there is little movement across any area of development. In this case, young adults may become progressively more depressed as the distance between themselves and their peers becomes more and more apparent with time. In fact, popular culture has addressed this issue through movies such as Reality Bites and Clerks, both of which came out in 1994. In both these movies, young adults idle aimlessly, frustrated with their lack of forward momentum, but unable to accept the inevitable compromises necessitated by an adult role in society.


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