Early, Middle and Late Adulthood – Essay Example

Early and Middle Adulthood

Although the theory of development by Erik Erikson maintained that humans develop in psychosocial stages, it is the psychological adjustments people undertake in regard to lifestyle and aging that mark significant areas of development. The transition through early adulthood and middle adulthood demand resilience in the pursuit of intimacy, specific function, and quality of life. The subject matter for this paper will expound on the evolution of social and intimate relationships during this period and identify the various role changes experienced. Additionally, a brief examination of the immediate and future effect of healthy and unhealthy habits practiced will be provided. Whereas many people define early adulthood as reaching the age of majority, the transition to adulthood has also been marked by the category of emerging adulthood (DeVito, 2009). This period of change is, like the stages of development prior, complicated with new challenges and uncertainties. Exploration, identity progress, and broadening values subject an early adult to cultural changes and variations as well as risks in grappling with momentous choices.

At the height of these choices and influences, the human need for social and intimate relationships evolves and develops through experimentation and adjustments. The capacity to overcome challenges and adversity signifies the resilience that has emerged and continues to support the growth throughout early and middle adulthood. Humans are innately social and the socio-emotional development of relationships is typically marked by a greater sense of independence, increased responsibility, and an attempt to balance autonomy and intimacy. During early adulthood and continuing into middle adulthood, there is a progression of positive identity that promotes good interpersonal skills and relationships, social integration, and social support (Berger, 2010). Although many theorists, such as Erikson and Freud, argue that early adulthood is the stage when individuals seek to form intimate relationships.

This stage is commonly referred characterized by interpersonal relationships and work. The social support of positive relationships with parents, peers, teachers, and mentors provide a sense of social connection that fosters resilience in the pursuit of relationships. According to Berger (2010), it is Erikson’s theory of intimacy versus isolation that drives the need to forge meaningful relationships or fall prey to the lack of social connection. The social relationships take a secondary position in many areas to the pursuit of an intimate connection and permanent commitment. This development progresses through middle adulthood in much the same manner but is approach with a greater base of experience and skill. Because Erikson argues that intimacy is attained by a secure individual identity, the developed identity during these stages assures a greater chance of a successful intimate relationship. Middle adulthood relationship developments result from a transition between a current structure and a new phase aimed at harmonizing inner personal and societal demands (Reeve, 2009).

Akin to the premise that humans are flexible and resilient, the adaptation to life suggests that humans alter themselves and social world to suit positive relationships. Psychologist Sigmund Freud argued that a healthy adult is one who can love and work as these are the main concerns of early and middle adulthood (Reeve, 2009). According to DeVito (2009), role changes throughout early and middle adulthood define the rights, duties, and scripts common to social positions. Whereas many roles are codified, the steady series of role acquisitions, strains, transitions, disjunctions, and losses also can be informal. The role of intimate partner has many minimum expectations but is generally confined within the relationship rules. Career changes and social circles can change many times during these periods and with each comes a new expectancy for role fulfillment. Consider the multiple roles of a full-time employee who is also a parent and student pursuing a graduate degree. Each role is expected to change in time and affect another area of the persons life. The degree earned is anticipated to beget more career choices but may also be influenced by geographical and market factors.

Preparation for the anticipated changes in roles and relationships will need some support from the physiology aspect of a person’s development. Just as humans are to learn healthy habits during childhood and adolescence for the highest degree of positive development, the opportunity for maintaining those habits decreases in early and middle adulthood. This can be attributed to the various roles and responsibilities of these stages but is also affected by the habits developed during childhood. Because physical change does not end in adolescence but continues throughout life, the normal changes of an aging body can be positively affected with healthful behaviors. According to Berger (2010), it is important to practice healthy habits through the life span to reduce the risk of developing illnesses and disabilities common among older adults. Common changes occurring throughout life that affect the physical, mental, emotional, and social transitions, are either directly or indirectly influenced by healthy habits. Senescence, the gradual physical decline related to aging, occurs once physical growth stops but can be accelerated by unhealthy habits and practices.

To emphasize the effect of these practices, consider the immediate influence tobacco has on the person and his or her social or emotional development. Many public places ban smoking and some people are offended by secondhand smoke inhalation whereas others despise the odor in the clothing of the smoker. According to Berger (2010), “each additional day of smoking makes cancer, heart disease, strokes, and emphysema more likely,” this includes each breath of secondhand smoke (p. 427). Because healthy habits and practices could increase life expectancy, the expectation to expand opportunities in late adulthood and retirement prompt many early and middle adulthood persons to expound on the list physical, mental, emotional, and social goals. Healthy biosocial factors contribute to satisfaction in the workplace, lower stress levels, and help balance social relationships (Reeve, 2009). Whereas the innate need to develop relationships is influenced by transitions from early to middle adulthood, it is dynamic interaction that signifies that positive relationships are a necessary source of good self-esteem, happiness, good health, and constructive development (Berger, 2010).

The transition from early to middle adulthood requires the resilience to maintain a positive attitude, good physical health, and encouraging life choices despite a possible feeling of ambivalence without awareness of mortality. Unlike the general delineation of adolescence by puberty, the early and middle stages of adulthood are defined by more subtle physical changes but the choices, concerns, and adjustments are significant to psychosocial development. Development is dynamic and the changes encountered throughout the early and middle adulthood stages require the resilient adaptability inherent in humans. This paper has expounded on the evolution of social and intimate relationships during this period and identified the various role changes experienced. Additionally, a brief examination of the immediate and future effect of healthy and unhealthy habits practiced was provided.


Berger, K. S. (2010). Invitation to the life span. New York, NY: Worth Publishers. DeVito, J. A. (2009). The interpersonal communication book (12th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon. Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding motivation and emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Late Adulthood

In this paper we will be talking about my grandmother, she was born in 1944. She is a wonderful caring woman. She got married at 20 years old and had two children and was a stay at home mom her whole life and when her children had babies she helped and became a full time grandmother. She has lived a very simple happy life and she is a great person. I will be writing about my interview with her on late adult hood and her feelings on getting older.

First I began the interview by asking if she had any major health issues and if she had any observable changes in weight, strength, and physical functioning. She explained that as she gets older she definitely notices her strength gets less and less. She has many common conditions that come with age and she says it gets worse with age. She has diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease. Her carpel tunnel and arthritis have gotten worse also but she said that her weight has relatively stayed the same with normal fluctuations.

We discussed about changes in sleep patterns. When she was younger she used to sleep a lot less and be fine. She said she would run on 6-7 hours of sleep. As she has gotten older she says she sleep a lot more and is tired more often she needs 9-10 hours of sleep now. Changes in memory are shown. She explained that most of the knowledge of your life and what you want to know is recorded and used up memory once you reach about 65 she says her basic memory of everyday has changed, “I can go into a room to get my coffee and then when I’m in the room forget what I went in the room for until I leave the room again and realize I don’t have my coffee.” Her strong point in memory has always been remembering voices and sounds such as; knowing characters of movies by their voices and recognize certain sounds or noises. Since her hearing has been fading over time she said that has weakened too.

She hasn’t had any issues with depression, anxiety, or dementia. She is always a very happy, mellow, sweet persona. According to Erik Erikson, primary psycho-social task of late adult hood (65+) is to maintain ego integrity (which is holding on to one’s sense of wholeness) while avoiding despair (which is fearing that there is too little time to begin a new life course). Wisdom is developed for those who succeed in the final task. They accept their life without major regrets of the life they have lived. Older adults may feel some despair as they contemplate their past. (Robert Kail- John Cavanaugh; Human Development, a life-span view, fifth edition) My grandmother has been successful to this stage for she is content with her life, has no despair, no regrets, and wouldn’t change her paths in life.

I asked her what roles her siblings played in late adult hood, she replied that she remained friends with them but they all have their own lives so as they grew older contact was less and they only saw each other every couple months or at family functions. Their relationship remained positive and they got along.

Sometimes it is difficult for her to get up but then once she is she has no problems standing and has been able to keep her independence. Her opinion on how she felt about aging was that no one likes to age, but it is part of life so she is fine with it. She has maintained many life-long relationships and has a hand full of close friends. Then we discussed how she felt about loss of family of friends. She explained that it is a very hard thing to do and there is really nothing you can do about it but live through it. She said you just have to still live your life get upset and cry but as the years go by it gets easier and easier. She lost her mother at 21 and it was really difficult for her to get over and still to this day has moments where she cries and really misses her. She believes that when someone dies if they haven’t done anything really bad and they truly are sorry for anything they may have done and ask for forgiveness then they will go to heaven and if not then they will go to the other side. She also believes that if someone has done something kind of bad but not really bad and won’t ask for forgiveness will wait in limber and not see anything.

When she was 14 she saw her grandfather that had passed away a couple weeks prior. She was feeding her pets when she turned around and he was standing there she had said “Daddy Jim, what are you doing up? Go lay down” Her mother said who are you talking to forgetting that he had passed away and when she said Daddy Jim again and turned back around he was gone. She said he was trying to tell them that her mother was going to get into an accident. They owned a restaurant near a train track and the pots and pans rattled off the walls without a train even going by. Shortly after she did get into an accident, but she survived. The last question I asked was what advice she would give a young person on how to live. Her response was to tell them to really think long and hard about what they want to do with their life and choose a path to where they can be self-sufficient no matter what and to get a job that they love doing but also will bring success and allow then to live comfortably when they retire.

In conclusion, late adult hood is like a conclusion of the story of your life. It is a reflection of how you see your life was lived. Some view it as positive and have learned a lot of wisdom, while others feel despair and anxiety that they have wasted a lot of their time and now they are running out of time with many unfinished goals. My grandmother is a very positive person and a great person to look up to. She always has great stories and words of wisdom. She is an example of someone who reflects on their life as being happy, optimistic, and feels accomplished by raising her children and helping with her grandchildren. She has made many strong life-long connections with people and developed many loved ones. She has succeeded with this stage of Erikson’s theory.


Dona J. Kenney (grandmother)

Robert Kail- John Cavanaugh; Human Development, a life-span view, fifth edition