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Chapter 14. Psychosocial Development in Young Adulthood . Four approaches to adult psychosocial development: These models find considerable stability in personality Normative Stage Models age-related development that continues through the lifespan.

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Chapter 14

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chapter 14

Chapter 14

Psychosocial Development in Young Adulthood

Four approaches to adult psychosocial development:
  • These models find considerable stability in personality

Normative Stage Models

  • age-related development that continues through the lifespan
Erikson- Intimacy vs. Isolation (early adulthood)
  • If cannot make deep personal commitments to others, risk becoming overly isolated and self-absorbed.
  • Prepared and willing to unite their identity with others
  • Seek relationships of intimacy, partnerships, and affiliations.
  • Prepared to develop necessary strengths to fulfill these commitments despite the sacrifices that may have to make
Erikson- Intimacy vs. Isolation (early adulthood)
  • For first time in life, can develop true sexual genitality in mutuality with a loved partner.
  • Sex life in previous stages was restricted to a searching for sexual identity and a striving for transitory intimacies.
  • From genitality to be of lasting social significance it requires someone to love and to have sexual relations with, and with whom one can share in a trusting relationship.
  • Hazard of this stage is isolation, which is the avoidance of relationships because one is unwilling to commit oneself to intimacy.
Erikson- Intimacy vs. Isolation (early adulthood)
  • A transitory sense of isolation, too, is a necessary condition for making choices, but of course, can also result in severe personality problems
  • Virtue of Love comes into being.
  • Dominant virtue of the universes, love, appears in many forms beginning with infant’s love for its mother, then adolescents infatuations, and finally the love one exhibits in caring for others as an adult
  • The development of true intimacy transpires only AFTER the age of adolescence.
Erikson- Intimacy vs. Isolation (early adulthood)
  • Young adults are capable of committing themselves to a joint relationship in which their mode of life is mutually shared with an intimate partner.
  • “Love, then is mutuality of devotion forever subduing the antagonisms inherent in divided function”
  • Although ones identity is maintained in a joint relationship, one’s Ego-strength is dependent upon the mutual partner who is prepared to share in the rearing of children, the productivity, and the ideology of their relationship.
Erikson- Intimacy vs. Isolation (early adulthood)
  • Corresponding ritualization of this stage is the Affiliative: a sharing together of work, friendship, and love.
  • The corresponding ritualism is mainly Elitism: expressed by formation of exclusive groups that are a form of communal narcissism.
  • Genital Stage
  • ****The formation of close friendships and relationships with the opposite sex/partner is vital to healthy development.
Timing-of-events models
  • Change is not related to age as much as to the expected or unexpected occurrence and timing of important life events.
  • Marriage, parenthood, grandparenthood, retirement
  • Aware of own social clock: their societies norms for life events
Trait models
  • Focus on mental, emotional, temperamental and behavioral traits. Typically change through emerging adulthood and more slowly after that.

Five-factor models

Personality factors that seem to underlie five groups of associated traits (Big Five)

Five-factor models
  • Neuroticism (emotional stability- anxiety, hostility, depression, self-consciousness, impulsiveness, vulnerability)
  • Extraversion (warmth, gregariousness, assertiveness, activity, excitement-seeking, positive emotions)
  • Openness to experience (willing to try new things and embrace new ideas)
  • Conscientiousness (achievers, competent, orderly, dutiful, deliberate, disciplined)
  • Agreeableness (trusting, straightforward, altruistic, compliant, modest, easily swayed)
Summary of Big Five:
  • Continuity in all five domains
  • 40-66% heredity of these factors
  • Agreeableness- identified in childhood
  • No noticeable changes between adolescence and age 30, slower changes thereafter
  • Age-related and universal
  • Women score higher on neuroticism and agreeableness; certain facets of extraversion and openness to experience- warmth, openness to aesthetic experience.
  • Men score higher on assertiveness and openness to ideas
Summary of Big Five:
  • The Big Five are associated with feelings of health and well-being
  • Major limitation: based on subjective ratings. Simply assigns traits, not explaining personality or development
Typology models

Broader personality types/styles, that represent how personality traits are organized

Personality types:

Ego-resilient: adaptability under stress; well adjusted, self-confident, confident, helpful.

Ego-control- self-control;

Overcontrolled people: shy, anxious, dependable, withdrawn

Undercontrolled people: active, energetic, impulsive, stubborn.

Costa & McCrae Integrated Approach to Personality development

Six interrelated elements:

Basic tendencies: personality traits, physical health, appearance, gender, sexual orientation, intelligence, artistic abilities; all may be inherited or acquired with external (environmental) influences to produce certain characteristic adaptations (social roles, attitudes, interests, skills, activities, habits, beliefs).

Objective biography- actual events of a person’s life; dynamic processes link the other five elements.

Intimate Relationships

Friendships during young and middle adulthood tend to center on work and parenting activities- sharing confidence and advice.

Women typically have more intimate friendships than men and may find relationships with other women more satisfying than with men.


May be addictive, a game for some, abusive, journey.

Sternberg’s Triangular subtheory of Love

There elements:

  • Intimacy: the emotional element, involves self-disclosure, leads to connection, warmth, trust.
  • Passion:the motivational element; based on inner drives that translate into physiological arousal into sexual desire.
  • Commitment:the cognitive element; decision to love and stay with someone.

Similarities or differences in personality traits had little to no correlation with marital satisfaction or choice of partner.


4 differences between mens/womens sexual appetites:

  • men tend to show greater sexual desire than women; want sex more, more likely to masturbate.
  • Men seek primarily physical pleasure; women want sex with intimate, committed relationships.
  • Aggression more strongly linked to sexuality for men.
  • Women’s sexuality tends to show more plasticity.

Three main attitudes about sex:

Reproductive (30%): sex permissible only for reproductive purposes within marriage

Recreational (25%): whatever feels good and doesn’t hurt anyone is fine

Relational (45%): sex accompanied by love/affection, not necessarily marriage

Men more permissive about sex

Date rape a problem, high on college campuses. 


Single life

  • Some choose to be single; others seek to marry
  • Sexual preference had no impact on quality of relationships, marriages, or raising children.
  • Factors predictive of quality and stability of relationships:
  • Psychological adjustment
  • Personality traits
  • Perceptions of equality between partners
  • Problem solving techniques
  • Satisfaction with social support
  • Living together without legal commitment of marriage
  • ½ married couples lived together prior to marriage
  • Cohabitating tends to be less satisfying and less stable than marriage
  • 50% end within first year
  • cohabitating couples who marry tend to have unhappier marriages and greater likelihood of divorce than those who wait until marriage to live together
  • couples who cohabitate after engagement have less problems than those who cohabitated prior to the engagement
  • couples who conceive during cohabitation are more likely to marry and remain together
  • couples who bear a child during cohabitation are more likely to break-up after marriage
  • cohabitants tend to have unconventional attitudes which tend to interfere with committed relationships;
  • the cohabitating itself is probably less the issue; also more likely to have family backgrounds positive for divorce and problematic relationships- which predict unstable marriages.

Offers division of labor, intimacy, commitment, friendship, affection, sexual fulfillment, companionship, emotional growth opportunities, new sources for self-esteem and identity.

Average age for first marriage: mid to late 20’s

Sexual activity tends to occur far less than media depicts; but more emotional satisfaction from sex

Marital satisfaction
  • Married people tend to be happier than unmarried or divorced
  • Marital satisfaction related to: increased economic resources, equal decision making, nontraditional gender attitudes, support for norm of long marriage, husband sharing of housework; negatively affected by premarital cohabitation, extramarital affairs, wife’s job demands, wife’s long working hours.
  • Cohesiveness of marriage based on rewards- lasted longer: love, respect, trust, communication, compatibility, commitment to partner

Top three reasons cited:

  • Incompatibility and lack of emotional support
  • Lack of career support for the women
  • Spousal abuse

Spousal Abuse

1/5 women abused by partner- probably much higher

see Box 14-2 (page 532-533)

  • Positive and negative impact. Marital satisfaction typically declines during child raising years.

New stressors

  • Budgeting
  • Sacrifices
  • Making time for intimacy
  • Adaptive
  • Approximately 20-50%.
  • Later age of marriage and higher education helps marriages last

Reasons for divorce:

  • Lack of perception of marriage as a sacred union
  • Loss of families traditional function as producer/team
  • Sexual infidelity
  • Values for autonomy
  • Free choice
  • Romantic love