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Chapter 14: Early Adulthood: Emotional and Social Development

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Chapter Outline

Chapter 14: Early Adulthood: Emotional and Social Development

  1. Theories of Emotional-Social Development
    1. Erikson: Psychosocial Stages
      1. The principal task facing young adults is one of reaching out and making contact with other people.
      2. The stage of intimacy versus isolation
    2. Levinson: Phases in Adult Male Development
      1. Daniel Levinson has attempted to identify developmental stages in adulthood.
      2. He and his collegues have constructed a descriptive framework that defines six stages in adult male development up to the late forties.
      3. In early adulthood, the major tasks involve leaving the family, getting into the adult world, settling down, and becoming one's own man.
      4. Levinson believes that the overriding task throughout adulthood is the creation of a structure for life, which must periodically be restructured as a result of a life review process.
    3. Levinson's Stages in a Woman's Life
      1. Despite growing interest in adult development, the phases in adult female development remain largely unexplored.
      2. The age-30 transition: Women tend to reprioritize their goals around age 30.
      3. A growing number of women rear children first in two-parent, then in one-parent, and then again in two-parent households.
    4. New Social Definitions for Women
      1. Until recently, a woman's life was commonly viewed in terms of her reproductive role.
      2. Today, however, employment outside the home plays an increasingly important role in the self-esteem and identity of women.
      3. Role conflict occurs when one experiences pressures within one role that are incompatible with the pressures that arise within another role.
      4. Role overload occurs when there are too many role demands and too little time to fulfill them.
      5. Some researchers believe that the adult experience is different for women than for men.
    5. A Critique of the Stage Approach
      1. Some researchers believe that a stage approach may oversimplify adult life.
      2. The timing of life events is becoming less regular, and the trends are toward a more fluid life cycle.
      3. The psychological themes reported by adults of all ages are recurrent ones that appear and reappear in new forms and do not typically follow in a single, fixed order.
      4. Many inner changes occur slowly across the life span and not in a stagelike fashion.
  2. Establishing Intimacy in Relationships
    1. Friendships
      1. provide us with much-needed social support when life gets us down are our major source of socializing
      2. Women tend to develop friendships with other women who have children the same age.
      3. Men tend to develop friendships within the spheres of work and recreation.
    2. Love
      1. Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love
        1. Passion: Physical and sexual attraction
        2. Intimacy: Having a close, warm, and caring relationship
        3. Commitment: Intent and ability to maintain the relationship over extended period of time and under adverse conditions
        4. All three equals consummate love
      2. Significance of Romantic Love
        1. Most adults indicated in a 1997 survey they they had fallen in love two to five times.
        2. Men and women fall in love equally frequently.
        3. Being in love seems to be a special relationship that clearly distinguishes itself from other kinds of relationships.
        4. Being in love does not necessarily lead to the relationship that one might expect.
  3. Diversity of Lifestyle Options
    1. Leaving Home
      1. Leaving home is a major step in the transition to adulthood.
      2. Over the past two to three decades, the process of leaving the parental home has become increasingly complex, with many young people experiencing numerous living arrangements in the course of assuming adult status.
    2. Living at Home
      1. Despite norms that have dictated that U.S. youth leave home and make their own way in the world, lately adult children have been making their way back to the parental home in increasing numbers.
      2. Family therapists express concern that those who stay at home or return home do not have opportunities to fully develop their sense of individuality.
      3. The practices aggravate tendencies toward excessive protectiveness in parents and aggravate tendencies toward a lack of self-confidence in youth.
    3. Staying Single
      1. Single status among both men and women under 35 years of age has sharply increased in recent years.
      2. This increase has resulted in part from the tendency of young people to postpone marriage.
      3. More than two-thirds of adult singles live with someone else: a friend, a relative, or a "spouse equivalent."
    4. Cohabiting
      1. The number of couples who are not married but live together has increased substantially over the past two to three decades
      2. Those who follow this lifestyle do so more openly than they used to.
      3. Cohabitation is not restricted to the younger generation.
      4. It is becoming increasingly prevalent among the middle-aged and elderly who are divorced or widowed.
    5. Living as a Lesbian or Gay Couple
      1. Sexual orientation refers to whether an individual is more strongly aroused sexually (erotic attraction) by members of his or her own sex, the cross sex, or both sexes.
      2. Individuals show varying degrees of orientation, so homosexuals (lesbians and gay males) are a varied group.
    6. Getting Married
      1. Marriage is a lifestyle found in all societies and remains the dominant lifestyle in the United States.
      2. Because about four in ten marriages end in divorce, many Americans have managed to maintain a monogamous arrangement through serial monogamy.
  4. Family Transitions
    1. The Family Life Cycle
      1. Families, like individuals, undergo development.
      2. In the United States most families have traditionally had a fairly predictable natural history—the family life cycle.
      3. Major changes in expectations and requirements are imposed on a husband and wife as their children are born and grow up.
    2. Pregnancy
      1. Within the life cycle of a couple, particularly a woman, the first pregnancy is an event of unparalleled importance.
      2. It signals that a couple is entering the family cycle, bringing about new role requirements.
      3. As such, the first pregnancy functions as a major marker or transition and confronts a couple with new developmental tasks.
    3. Transition to Parenthood
      1. Psychologists and sociologists who view the family as an integrated system of roles and statuses have often depicted the onset of parenthood as a "crisis" because it involves a shift from a two-person to a three-person system.
      2. But many researchers have questioned this conclusion.
      3. Their research suggests that relatively few couples view the onset of parenthood as especially stressful.
    4. Lesbian Parenthood
      1. In many courts of law, lesbian mothers have been deemed unfit as parents on a number of grounds.
      2. There is no evidence that lesbian mothers are emotionally unstable or that they might sexually abuse their children.
      3. There are few differences between heterosexual and lesbian mothers.
      4. Internalized homophobia and societal disapproval place additional stress on the lesbian mother.
      5. This additional stress can lead to feelings of self-doubt, ambivalence, or a sense of having to overachieve.
  5. Employed Mothers
    1. One aspect of motherhood that appears particularly stressful is the balancing of motherhood and career.
      1. Many people fear that the working mother represents a loss to children in terms of supervision, love, and cognitive enrichment.
      2. But researchers are finding that the working mother who obtains personal satisfaction from employment, who does not feel excessive guilt, and who has adequate household arrangements is likely to perform as well as or better than the nonworking mother.
    2. Separation and Divorce
      1. Divorce does not affect all couples in the same ways.
        1. Some couples get a long well following a divorce.
        2. Most suffer negative effects
          1. Increased chances of psychiatric disorders
          2. Depression
          3. Alcoholism
          4. Weight loss or weight gain
          5. Sleep disorders
    3. Single-Parent Mothers
      1. Single-parent mothers frequently suffer from a lack of free time, spiraling childcare costs, loneliness, and the unrelenting pressures of attempting to fill the needs posed by both home and work.
      2. Not uncommonly, they find themselves in difficult economic circumstances. Nearly one-half live below the poverty level.
    4. Single-Parent Fathers
      1. Increasing numbers of men are becoming single-parent fathers.
      2. Studies show that even though single fathers are confronted with some unique adjustment requirements, most of them are successful in raising their children.
      3. Like single-parent mothers, single-parent fathers find that one of their greatest difficulties is balancing the demands of work and parenthood.
  6. Work
    1. The Significance of Work for Women and Men
      1. Work plays an important part in the lives of adults, not only because of the money it brings in but also because work is tied to people's self-definitions.
  7. Boxes
    1. Human Diversity: Arranged Marriages or Love Matches: Which Are Better?
      1. In the United States, most marriages are based on love, and partners choose each other.
      2. In other cultures, parents arrange marriages for their offspring.
      3. There are decided advantages and disadvantages to both types of marriages.
    2. Further Developments: Is the U.S. Family Disintegrating or Merely Changing?
      1. Family issues have entered the political arena and are the source of great differences of opinion.
      2. Much of the debate over the "state of the American family" may be misinformed and misguided because it uses a stereotyped image of the white middle-class family of the 1950s as its point of departure for either praise or criticism of subsequent changes.
      3. For most Americans, the family remains a vital, adaptive, resilient human institution.
    3. Information You Can Use: Postpartum Blues
      1. About two or three days after delivery, some new mothers experience what is commonly termed the postpartum blues.
      2. Generally the episode is mild and lasts only a short time—several days to two weeks.
      3. Various explanations have been advanced for the postpartum blues, some biological and others psychological.
      4. In a small number of cases the birth of a child may act as a catalyst that triggers severe mental illness among women who are predisposed to schizophrenic or bipolar disorders.


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