What are the factors that influence the developmental changes that take place in early adulthood.

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the field of psychology early adulthood refers to the time period that extends from age 20 (some can go as back as 18) all the way to age 35. 

From a physical perspective, both males and females would have already reached their maximum heights. Throughout this time the muscles start to become bulkier and to add on mass which may later on become fat if it is not made strong. Hence, a soon-to-be middle age adult may gain up to 15 pounds (naturally) as early adulthood wanes. 

This is also a dangerous time period for males, whose natural strength and stamina hits a huge high during this time making them engage in more risky behaviors (sports, military, car racing, and a lot of physical activity)

Psychologically speaking, Piaget would argue that although the development of the frontal lobe cortex ends at around age 20, it may be experience and interaction that delineate the different thought processes of a 20 year old from a 30 year old's. In other words, none of them have a significant difference in cognitive development but each sees things differently. Again, it is thought to be the result of how each personality uses its own traits to interact with the immediate environment. 

In Erikson's theory, early adulthood is a time when connections are sought through formal relationships and real dating. The want for marriage and to "settle down" is a symptom of this stage, and when this particular issue is not resolved, the result is either emotional or self-imposed isolation. The complexity of interactions, dynamics, relationships, bonds, and break ups that take place during this time may mar an individual from forming healthy relationships in the future if patterns of behavior are ignored. 

If we look back at the changes that take place in early adulthood the environment plays a massive role which can trigger productive or restraining cognitive reactions from both genders. Allport's trait theory argues that the environment is an important factor to development because by interacting with the environment we put into play cognitive and survival skills such as

  • problem solving (daily life problem solving)
  • conflict resolution
  • analytical thinking
  • inference
  • flexible choice making
  • critical thinking, inductive, and deductive decision making
  • self-control

As you look at those skills, then the environment (as the key factor) should reflect three key sub-factors: order, purpose, and method.

  • order- with an organized environment comes organized thinking. This type of thinking allows for cognitive skills to work optimally. This further allows for better decision making, better analysis of situations, and better problem solving.
  • purpose- to wander aimlessly within our environment is an invitation for potential mental and physical chaos. Motivation and goal-making must trigger action within our environment which moves forward the developmental checkpoints proposed by Erickson/Allport. 
  • method- planning without taking concrete steps to achieve a goal may result in morbidity that may lead to depression and low self esteem. With a goal, comes a plan. 

With these three elements within the environment young adulthood can be better managed and easily understood even with the social challenges of interaction that come with this stage.