Early Adulthood: Biosocial Development

Growth, Strength, & Health

Early adulthood, from age 20 to roughly age 35 - The PRIME OF LIFE!

 Senescence (sen-ESS-ents): The state of physical decline, in which the body gradually becomes less 
strong & efficient with age.
       •   Starts when overall growth stops.
        •   The 1st visible age related changes are seen in the skin.
         •   Hair begins to gray at around 30.
  Homeostasis: The adjustment of the body's system to keep physiological functions in a 
state of equilibrium.
       •   Many body functions seek homeostasis.
        •   As the body ages, it takes longer for these adjustments to occur.
         •   Older bodies fine it harder to adapt to stresses.
         •   There is a homeostatic set point for weight.
  Organ Reserve: The extra capacity of the heart, lungs, and other organs that make it possible for 
the body to withstand moments of intense or prolonged stress.
       •   With age, organ reserve is gradually depleted, but the rate of depletion depends on the 
individual's general state of health.

   * The impact of ageing depends on lifestyle, & on the decisions made each day about consumption 
& exertion!

 Key Terms

    Infertility - the failure to conceive a child after a year or more of intercourse without contraception

    Motile - active

    Ovulate- to release an egg from the ovary

    Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - a common result of recurring pelvic infections in women - often 
leads to blocked Fallopian tubes & infertility.
    Endometriosis - when fragments of the uterine lining grow on the surface of the ovaries or Fallopian 
tubes - can block the reproductive tract.
* Assisted Reproductive Techniques *

 In vitro fertilization (IVF) - a technique in which the ova are surgically removed from a woman and 
fertilized with sperm in the laboratory - after being fertilized, they inserted back into woman’s uterus
 Gamete Intra-Fallopian transfer (GIFT) or Zygote intra-Fallopian transfer (ZIFT) - inserting either sperm 
and unfertilized ova (gametes) or fertilized ova (zygotes) directly into the Fallopian tube


     Overall, 2 to 30% of all couples experience infertility. The U.S rate is about 15% because cultural 
practices postpone reproduction until after the most fertile ages.
Male Infertility

•  most common reason: do not produce a sufficient number of live, motile sperm (primary cause of 
infertility in ¼ of all infertile couples)
• as men grow older, the number, shape, and motility of their sperm decline
• men over 40 take three times longer to produce a pregnancy than men under 25
• waiting at least three days between ejaculations is advisable to allow the sperm count to rise
• anything that impairs normal body functioning reduces the number, shape, and motility of the sperm: 
like high fever, radiation, prescription drugs, environmental toxins, unusual stress, drug abuse, 
alcoholism, or cigarette smoke

Female Infertility

• most common reason for infertility is failure to ovulate
• another common reason is blocked Fallopian tubes - often caused by Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
• reasons include all of the previously stated, plus being underweight and being obese
• incidence of infertility rises steadily with age
• another common problem, again age-related but not directly age-caused, is endometriosis
Medical Advances

• minor physical abnormalities that cause infertility in the male are often correctable through surgery
• in women inability to ovulate can be treated with drugs to stimulate ovulation, and blocked Fallopian 
tubes can often be opened surgically
• surgery can also help with endometriosis

Drug Abuse

 Drug Abuse

•  Drug addiction - a condition of drug dependence such that the absence of the given drug in the 
individual’s system produces a drive - physiological, psychological, or both- to ingest more of the drug.
•  Drug Abuse - using a drug in a quantity or a manner that is harmful to physical, cognitive, or 
psychosocial well-being.

• Use vs. Abuse:
 One time or occasional use can constitute abuse not because of quantity or frequency but because 
of consequences.

•  Drug Use before age 18 often becomes abusive & can sometimes become addictive between 
ages 19 and 23.
•  Drug Use in the early 20’s is a time of heavy drinking & high marijuana consumption.
•  Drug Use peaks at age 23 with the greatest use of cocaine & other drugs.

Drug Use - Causes of high rates of use follow.

• Genetic temperament - attraction to excitement, intolerance of frustration & vulnerability 
to depression

• Group activities - parties, concerts, spectator sports

• Life style - stress & personal attitudes

• Having friends who use drugs!

Destructive Dieting

    * Set point - particular body weight that an individual’s homeostatic processes strive to maintain. 
The set point is not rigidly fixed and is Influenced by the genes & environmental factors.
    * Body Mass Index (BMI) - the ratio of a person’s weight in kilograms divided by his or her height 
in meters squared. 

BMI = w/h2 where:
w = weight in kilograms (pounds divided by 2.2)
h = height in meters (inches divided by 39.4)
OR: BMI = Weight in pounds divided by ( height in inches times height in inches ) times 703. That is 
(in Imperial units): BMI = w/h2 x 703
For Adults;
   •  below 18 on the BMI scale is considered anorexic.
   •  between 19 & 25 is "good".
   •  26 to 30 is considered overweight.
   •  30 or above is considered obese.

Eating Disorders

# Anorexia Nervosa - eating disorder in which a person restricts eating to the point of emaciation, possible 
starvation, and sometimes death (20%). ~1% of young adult & adolescent females are anorexic. According 
to DSM-IV-R there are 4 symptoms:
       •   Refusal to maintain body weight at least 85% of normal
       •   Intense fear of gaining weight
       •   Disturbed body perception & denial of problem
       •   In adolescent & adult females, lack of menstruation
       Anorexia is a disease of social context, in other words, the culture supports it. (Mitchell & McCarty, 2000)

#   Bulimia Nervosa - eating disorder in which the person, usually a female, engages repeatedly in episodes 
of binge eating followed by purging through induced vomiting or use of laxatives. 1% and 3% of women in the 
US are clinically bulimic during early adulthood. People with this condition are usually close to normal in weight,
unlikely to starve, but experience serious health problems such as damage to gastrointestinal system 
& cardiac arrest.
# Chronic dieting - pursuit of thinness that has led many people to feel dissatisfied with body shape, weights, 
preoccupied with food, fearful of fat, and to frequently be on a diet. (often have negative self thoughts, feel 
lapse of failure)
# Binge eating disorder - consumption of large quantities of food in a very short period of time until the 
individual is uncomfortably full. Similar to bulimia but there is no form of purging (laxatives, vomiting, 
etc) following a binge
# Compulsive overeating - uncontrollable eating and consequent weight gain. Use food to cope with stress, 
emotional conflicts, etc.
# Statistics

    * Development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are almost habitually preceded by dietary restriction.
    * College women and athletes are particularly at risk
    * 44% adult women, 29% adult men, 44% adolescent girls, 15% adolescent boys in the U.S. describe themselves 
as losing weight.

 Why Women?

    * Psychoanalytic hypothesis is that women develop eating disorders because of a conflict with their mothers, 
who provided their 1st nourishment and from whom the daughters can’t psychically separate.
    * Learning theory notes that for some people with low-esteem, fasting, bingeing, and purging “have powerful 
effects as immediate reinforces-relieving states of emotional distress and tension” (Gordon, 1990), thus setting 
up a destructive stimulus-response chain.
    * One cognitive explanation is that as women compete with men in business and industry, they want to project 
a strong, self-controlled, masculine image antithetical to the buxom, fleshy body of the ideal woman of the past.
    * Sociocultural explanations include the contemporary cultural pressure to be “slim and trim” and model-like - 
a pressure that seems to be felt particularly by unmarried young women seeking autonomy from their parents, 
especially when the parent espouse traditional values (Nasser, 1997).
    * Epigenetic Systems notes that girls who are overwhelmed with the stresses of puberty may discover that 
self-starvation makes their menstrual periods cease, their sexual hormones decrease, and their curves 
disappear - all of which relieve the pressures to marry and reproduce. 



    * Hormones
    * Male gender socialization
          o During developmental stage, a male child is learning that to be considered masculine, he must 
suppress all “non masculine” emotional states.
          o Men eventually try to adhere to this gender adaptation. Adhering to gender norms are likely to 
convert fear & helplessness, etc., into anger.
          o Results: increase of aggressive action

 Young Adult Males;

- Between ages 15-25: 1 US male in every 100 dies violently.
- Are at increased risk for any kind of violent death from car crashes, gang shootings, suicide, & homicide
Social Values: The Root of the Problem

  - Achieving masculinity through ‘manhood rituals’
  - Society’s turn of positive masculine tendencies to negative male traits
  - Thought of solving problems with violence.
  - Driving drunk & letting others drive in the same condition.
  - One analysis, based on psychological research, finds that aggression is the result of an 
“explosive combination” of high self-esteem and dashed expectations.
                   Gender doesn't necessarily protect!

    MEN - Death from abusing drugs, could possibly develop abnormal eating habits, & vulnerable to 
artificially high expectations & lack of self-restraint
    WOMEN - Death from abusing drugs, dieting disorders, & vulnerable to low self-esteem & self-control 
 Key Questions
1. In what specific ways is early adulthood the prime of life?2. How is the physical performance of a 20-year-old athlete 
likely to be different from that of a 40-year-old athlete?
3. In what ways are the concepts of organ reserve and homeostasis comforting to young adults?
4. As a person ages, what changes occur in organ reserve? How do these changes affect a person's activities?
5. What are some of the factors that diminish fertility during early adulthood?>
6. What can be done to prevent or remedy infertility that correlates with age?
7. Why are young adults particularly susceptible to drug use & abuse?
8. How can concern about being fat become a health hazard?
9. What are the sex differences in the rate of violent deaths and to what degree are they the result of nature or nurture?
10. How do social values affect the incidence of health problems in early adulthood? 
11. In your experience what are the three riskiest actions you have voluntarily taken in your life? 
    Did your age, cultural context, & gender have any influence on your willingness to take those risks?

                                                           Robert C. Gates