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Chapter 14: Physical and Cognitive Development in Early Adulthood. The Transition from Adolescence to Adulthood. The transition to adulthood: Occurs in adolescence. Begins in biology and ends in culture. Is usually marked by full-time employment.

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Chapter 14: Physical and Cognitive Development in Early Adulthood

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Chapter 14:

Physical and Cognitive Development in Early Adulthood

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The Transition



to Adulthood

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  • The transition to adulthood:

    • Occurs in adolescence.

    • Begins in biology and ends in culture.

    • Is usually marked by full-time employment.

    • Is marked by economic independence.

    • Involves accepting responsibility and consequences for one’s behaviors and choices.

    • Is influenced by self-perceptions.

  • College graduates are increasingly returning to live with parents while seeking economic independence.

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Self-Perceptions of Adult Status

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  • Adult status in developing countries is often marked by marriage occurring much earlier than in the United States.

  • Personal and social assets linked to emerging adulthood sense of well-being:

    • Intellectual skills.

    • Psychological skills.

    • Social skills.

  • Transition from high school to college:

    • Has positive and negative aspects.

    • Can be very stressful.

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  • Sources of stress can be:

    • Academic (exams, grades, competition).

    • Personal (relationships, parental conflicts).

    • Economic (balancing work, school).

    • Psychological (emotional situations).

  • There are many ways, good and bad, to cope.

  • An increasing number of people are seeking higher education, as the U.S. is a more educated country.

  • What makes college students happy?

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Daily Activity Self-Ratings and College Students’ Happiness

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Physical Development

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  • Early adulthood:

    • Average peak physical performance is between ages 19 and 26 (under 30), and this includes athletes.

    • Usually during this time people are healthiest.

    • Most college students know what behaviors will prevent illness and promote health.

    • This is a time when most pleasures involve physical resources.

  • Gender and ethnicity are related to health behaviors and beliefs.

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  • Substance abuse in young adulthood:

    • Heavy binge drinking in college affects academic performance and personal life.

    • Binge drinking increases risk of having unprotected sex.

    • Use of alcohol and drugs lessens in the mid-twenties for most.

  • Globally, differences in alcohol use are affected by culture, religion, and gender.

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Age (years)

Binge Drinking in the Adolescence –Early Adulthood Transition

Percentage participants

Figure 14.6

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  • Alcoholism: a disorder that impairs one’s life:

    • One in nine of those who drink becomes an alcoholic.

    • Genetics and environmental factors are involved.

    • By age 65, the “one-third rule” applies—one-third recover whether or not they are in a treatment program.

    • Certain factors can predict a recovery.

    • Various strategies exist for reducing alcohol use.

  • Fewer people smoke today than in the past:

    • More is known about the risks of smoking.

    • Nicotine addiction prevents many from quitting.

    • Health risks decrease when one quits smoking.

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  • Addiction:

    • Strong dependency on alcohol, drugs, tobacco.

    • Withdrawal symptoms affect physical functioning.

  • There are 2 ways of looking at addiction:

    • Disease model stresses biological influences.

    • Life-process model stresses habitual behavior in relationships and with regard to one’s environment.

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  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs):

    • A variety of different diseases contracted primarily through sex.

    • Affect about 1 of every 6 U.S. adults.

    • AIDS has had a greater impact than any other:

      • HIV destroys the body’s immune system.

      • It is a global epidemic causing high death rates and fear; the greatest concerns are in Africa.

      • U.S. deaths are declining.

      • There are strategies to protect against AIDS.

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Sexually Transmitted Infections

Fig. 14.8

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  • Sexual harassment and rape involve the use of power.

  • Rape: sexual intercourse without consent:

    • Definitions vary among U.S. states.

    • Victims are often reluctant to report it.

    • It occurs most frequently in large cities.

    • Actual rates are unknown.

    • Male social training is blamed for high rates in U.S., almost 200,000 rapes reported annually.

  • Rape is a traumatic experience for victims and those close to them; recovery varies among victims.

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  • There is increasing concern about acquaintance or date rape:

    • Coercive sex with a person known by the victim.

    • Rates appear highest for adolescent and college freshman women.

    • Strategies exist to reduce risks of date rape.

  • Sexual harassment takes many forms in many settings:

    • It involves use of power for sexual exploitation.

    • More women than men are victims.

    • Victims can suffer serious psychological damage.

    • It is illegal and can be eliminated.

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Cognitive Development

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  • Piaget: adolescents and adults think qualitatively in the same way—formal operational thought.

  • Others believe idealism decreases as young adults enter world of work and face constraints of reality.

  • Perry: as the young move into adulthood, dualistic/absolute thinking changes into reflective/relativistic thinking.

  • Some believe cognitive changes in young adults create a postformal stage of thought—qualitatively different from Piaget’s stage of formal operational thought.

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  • Creativity peaks in adulthood as evidenced by some existing great works in the arts and science.

  • Decline begins in the 50s but varies by domain and individual characteristics.

  • Creative people have been found to experience a heightened state of pleasure when engaging in absorbing mental and physical challenges.

  • A creative life includes cultivating one’s curiosity through a variety of behavioral strategies.

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  • Many developmental changes occur during work and career, including changes in one’s personality and value system.

  • Holland proposed 6 basic career-related personalities, but people are more complex and varied than this.

  • A more important aspect of choosing a career is matching it up with a diversity of important values.

  • The Occupational Outlook Handbook, revised every two years, assists with monitoring new jobs and growth.

  • Education is essential to getting a high-paying job.

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Realistic: doing things (manual activities)

Conventional: working with details (clerical tasks)

Investigative: thinking (intellectual professions)

Enterprising: persuading others (sales & management)

Artistic: creating with materials (jobs rare)

Social: helping people (teaching & counseling)

Holland’s Model of Personality Types and Career Choices

Fig. 14.10

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  • Work defines people in many fundamental ways, and most spend about 1/3 of their lives working full-time.

  • Work settings are linked to stress and health problems; and yet, inability to work for an extended period causes emotional stress and low self-esteem.

  • Most college students work 26 hours or more per week.

  • Colleges offer co-op and internship programs that provide work experiences in many occupational areas.

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Percentage who reported a negative influence on their grades



1 - 15

16 - 20

35 or more

Hours worked per week

The Relation of Hours Worked Per Week in College to Grades

Fig. 14.11

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  • Unemployment creates stress and increases feelings of helplessness in both men and women, but intensity varies among individuals based on additional factors.

  • Dual-career couples make up the majority of workers in American society:

    • Division of responsibility for family had changed.

    • Social attitudes and values are changing.

  • Single-earner married families are the minority of workers in American society.

  • The workplace has become increasingly diverse.

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Changes in the Percentage of U.S. Traditional and Dual-Career Couples


Dual-earner couples







Traditional couples












Fig. 14.12

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