Emerging Adulthood: Psychosocial Development

Ψ  Erikson  

In an extension of Freud's theory, Erik Erikson proposed eight successive stages of development from infancy 
through old age, each stage involving a crisis that must be solved.    

1. Trust versus Mistrust (infant 0-1) - Hope is the virtue that develops upon successful resolution of this stage. 
     else wise: withdrawal may occur.  Unresolved: suspicious of others, making close relationships difficult.
 2. Autonomy versus Shame & Doubt (toddler 2-3) - Will / compulsion Unresolved: Obsessively driven, 
     single-minded, not socially responsive. 
  3. Initiative versus Guilt (preschooler 3-6) - Purpose / inhibition Unresolved: fearful, regretful. 
   4. Industry versus Inferiority (school age 7-12) - Competence / inertia Unresolved: self critical of any 
       endeavor, procrastinating, perfectionistic. 
    5. Identity versus Role Confusion (adolescence, 12- 20) - Fidelity / repudiation Unresolved: uncertain & 
        negative about values, lifestyle, friendships.
     6. Intimacy versus Isolation (early adulthood, 20 - 40) - Love / exclusivity Unresolved: anxious about closer 
         relationships, jealous, lonely. 
      7 . Generativity versus Stagnation (middle adulthood, 40 - 65) - Care / reflectivity  Unresolved: fear of failure. 
       8. Integrity versus Despair (late adulthood, 65 +) - Wisdom / distain Unresolved: no life plan, lack of 
          awareness of personal responsibilities.

   Ψ   Ethnic identity
•  is reciprocal, both a personal choice & a response to others. 
 •  depends on context & therefore changes with time & circumstances. 
  •  is multifaceted: emerging adults choose some attributes & reject others.
  Ψ   Vocational Identity
  •  Traditional vocational identity may be an illusion in the current employment market. 
  Many young adults see work as a way to earn money while they satisfy their creative, sell-expressive impulses 

- Intimacy -  

Ψ  Intimacy promotes feelings of affiliation, affection, interdependence, communion, belonging, and love.

•   Intimacy is characterized in Erickson’s 6th Psychosocial Stage: Intimacy vs. Isolation.

•   Adults seek to find someone with whom to share their lives, in an enduring and self-sacrificing commitment. 
Without such commitment, they risk profound aloneness, isolated from their fellow humans.    


Ψ  Gateways to Attraction – the various qualities, such as appearance & proximity, that are prerequisites for the formation of close friendships & ultimate relationships.

•   Physical attractiveness (even in platonic & same-sex relationships) 
 •   Apparent availability (demonstrated in willingness to that/do things together) 
  •   Absence of “exclusion criteria” (no unacceptable characteristics) 
   •   Frequent exposure
Same-Sex Friendships

•   Men & women tend to develop somewhat different friendship patterns:

•   Female - Female: may be better for meeting intimacy needs & reduces the loneliness and self-absorption that is 
the danger of the intimacy vs. isolation stage.

•   Male - Male: companions typically keep emotional distance while sharing information, activities, & assistance.

•   Cross-sex friendship benefits both sexes but is hazardous for other relationships.

The Dimensions of Love

Ψ  Robert Sternberg’s 7 forms of love have 3 distinct components, they follow. 
•   Passion 
 •   Intimacy 
  •   Commitment       

Ψ  Robert Sternberg’s 7 forms of love follow. 
•   Liking - components: I 
 •   Infatuation - components: P 
  •   Empty Love - components: C 
   •   Romantic Love - components: P I 
    •   Fatuous Love - components: P C 
     •   Companionate Love - components: I C 
      •   Consummate Love - components: P I C 
legend: P=Passion, I=Intimacy, C=Commitment

Ψ  Cohabitation (living together): an arrangement in which adults of the opposite sex are not married but live 
together in a committed sexual relationship. According to the studies, cohabitation is burdened with negative 
Ψ  Purpose of Cohabitation:

•   Variation. 
•   Substitute for marriage. 
•   Some couples live together but do not plan to marry each other; neither considers the relationship permanent. 
•   About 1/2 of cohabiting couples in the U.S. consider living together as a prelude to marriage, which they expect 
    to occur when they are financially & emotionally ready. 

Ψ  Marriage & its ideals have changed over time: 

•  The proportion of adults who are unmarried is higher than in the previous 100 years 
•   Only 10% of brides are virgins 
•   Nearly one half of all first births are to single mothers, who are increasingly unlikely to marry the fathers 
•   At least another 20% of first births are conceived before marriage 
•   The divorce rate is 49% of the marriage rate 
•  The rate of first marriages in young adulthood is the lowest in 50 years 
•   Most adults aged 20 to 30 are not yet married or already divorced 
•   Ideally mutually beneficial, a successful marriage is one where the couple’s love & friendship is grown & 
solidified over time through events such as bearing & raising children, overcoming financial & economic 
obstacles, surviving setbacks, & sharing social & financial commitments.
•   Overall, marriage makes people happier, healthier, & wealthier.


Ψ  Homogamy: refers to marriage between individuals who tend to be similar with respect to such variables as
 attitudes, interests, goals, SES, religion, ethnic background, & local origin.
Ψ  Heterogamy: refers to marriage between individuals who tend to be dissimilar with respect to such variables
 as attitudes, interests, goals, SES, religion, ethnic background, and local origin.
Ψ  Social Homogamy: the similarity with which a couple regards leisure interests and role preferences. (If both 
spouses enjoy/hate the same things, they tend to be more “in love,” and if role preferences are agreed on, conflict and 
ambivalence are reduced)

Ψ  Marital Equity - Social Exchange Theory: marriage is an arrangement in which each person contributes 
something useful to the other, something the other would find difficult to attain alone.             

Domestic Violence 

Ψ  Common Couple Violence (CCV): consists of couple conflicts that “get out of hand” & result in minor violence.

Ψ  Intimate terrorism: is a systematic, intentional form of violence that is perpetrated most often by males against 
their partners. Can lead to battered-wife syndrome.

Family Connections 

Ψ   Modern emerging adults have linked lives in which the success health, & well being of one generation in a 
family are connected to those of anther generation, as in the relationship between parents & children.

- Emotional Development - 

Ψ   Well-Being

•   A sizable proportion of adults report having a "happiness bump" in their mid 20s. People are at their peak in 
strength, sexual impulsiveness, health, cognition, & much else including emotion during emerging adulthood.

Ψ   Psychopathology

•   The term psychopathology is used to denote behaviors or experiences which are indicative 
of mental illness. Psychopathology is more likely in emerging adults. Most psychologists believe in the 
diathesis-stress model. In the diathesis-stress model, a non-biological or genetic vulnerability or predisposition 
(diathesis) interacts with the environment & life events (stressors) to trigger behaviors or psychological disorders. 
The greater the underlying vulnerability, the less stress is needed to trigger the behavior / disorder. Conversely, 
where there is a smaller genetic contribution greater life stress is required to produce the particular result. Even 
so, someone with a diathesis towards a disorder does not necessarily mean they will ever develop the disorder. 
Both the diathesis & the stress are required for this to happen. 

•   Substance Abuse Disorders: 1 in 8 addicted by age 27- Emerging adulthood is by far the most common time 
for substance abuse.

•   Mood Disorders: 8% before age 30 in the U.S. - Most commonly emerging adults have major depression which 
is a leading cause of impairment & premature death worldwide.

•   Anxiety Disorders: 25% - PTSD, OCD, & panic attacks are examples of anxiety disorders. A U.S. survey found 
that neuroticism (one of the five basic traits of personality / temperament) characterized by high anxiety is highest 
during emerging adulthood. 
    New:  Hikikomori is a Japanese word meaning "pull away", the name of an anxiety disorder common among 
    emerging adults in Japan.           

•   Schizophrenia: 1% - characterized by distortions of reality & disturbances of thought & language & withdrawal from 
social contact. Symptoms typically begin in adolescence. Diagnosis is most common between the ages of 18 & 24. 
Males are most likely to get Schizophrenia. If you don't get Schizophrenia by age 35 it almost never develops.

Ψ   Continuity & Discontinuity

•   Many emerging adults overcome their problems through "self-righting", social support & ongoing maturation.

Key Questions

1. Why is vocational identity more complex for today’s young adults than it was when Erikson developed his theory?
2. When, how, and why do people develop an ethnic identity?
3. What are the three main ways young adults meet their need for intimacy?
4. What are the differences between men’s friendships and women’s friendships?
5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of cross-sex friendships?
6. What are the main reasons for cohabitation?
7. How does cohabitation affect marriage?
8. What factors make relationships endure?
9. What are the differences and similarities between developing and developed nations in family relationships?
10. Why is emerging adulthood an emotional peak for many people?
11. What factors increase the risk that a young adult will have an emotional disorder?
                                                   Growth & Development
                                                       Robert C. Gates