Having passed through adolescence, not without bumps, dents, scars and complexes, all of which are part and parcel of the individual’s identity, the person now emerges into young adulthood. With the challenges and crisis that have paved the path during the last two decades, it should not be surprising that many of the needs the young adult strives to satisfy are colored by unmet needs of adolescence and childhood. Identity may not be secured; questions about competency and industriousness may intrude; there may be issues about initiative and autonomy. Despite this, the young adult finds new more pressing needs emerging such as career development, partnership and genuine intimacy. Young adulthood spans the period from about 22 years of age into the mid 30’s.
Although parents are likely still very much in the picture, they no longer hold the tremendous power and control they have in the past. Now, the main influence comes from work colleagues and, particularly potent in this stage, the marital partner. However, as a young adult, it is now up to the individual to discover how best to meet his or her emerging needs.
Some pointers for this stage include:
- Don’t neglect the earlier needs that may still be striving for satisfaction.
- Learn good communication skills and use them with parents, friends, colleagues and significant others.
- Read some books about what it means to be intimate. Question the models you have internalized growing up.
- This is not only a period of giving love and affection but also of receiving love and affection. Explore your feelings and be honest with yourself.
- Build affiliations both professional and social.
- Seek a balance between work and pleasure – social/professional activities and persona/private intimacy
- Examine your goals, your vision, your weaknesses and your strengths. Are you heading in the right direction?
Social and cultural forces often dictate how a person passes through any given development stage. Our western culture trends to be relatively rigid and our post industrial era often place an undue emphasis on achievement at a young age. For those who have the opportunity to experience a developmental hiatus, a break in the normal process, the initial period of early adulthood is the perfect time. The ages of about 22 – 26 is an ideal period to postpone career development, intimacy and starting a family in favor of travel to foreign places (even if it’s just out of state), meeting new people, having new experiences, breaking out of the mold, expanding and growing. The military or humanitarian endeavors such as the Peace Corps can provide such opportunities as can simply hopping on a bus and heading out for some unplanned adventures.
If a person is not able to meet the needs of this stage, isolation tends to replace intimacy. Promiscuity and demanding exclusivity are behavioral symptoms of an isolated individual incapable of genuine affection and the forming of intimate bonds.
It wasn’t so long ago that the average life span was much shorter than it is today. Back then, early adulthood was considered what today would be mid adulthood. Life expectancy wasn’t much past 40. Now, mid adulthood is the half way point with several developmental needs awaiting to emerge and be satisfied.