Early Adult –Physical & Cognitive Developement

Transition from Adolescence to Adulthood

Emerging adulthood is the period of lengthy transition from adolescence to adulthood that is characterised by the following:

Identity exploration - in work, career and romantic relationships leading to instability during this "age of possibilities" where there are commonly many opportunities to transform their lives.

Self-focused (in individualistic societies) where there tend to be few social obligations, duties and commitments to others. However in collectivistic societies there is a greater demand for social cohesion and duty to the famliy.

Feelings being “in between” and uncertain may be present where emerging adults may not consider themselves adolescents nor full-fledged adults


Markers of adulthood

Adulthood is a time of taking on more responsibilities including full-time employment that gives rise to economic independence

In many cultures, marriage is more often a significant marker of adulthood than taking on a career path.


Physical development

Most people reach peak physical performance in late 20s, usually between ages 19 and 26 then observe natural declines in muscle tone and strength beginning around age 30

Visual decline begins as well with the lens of the eye beginning to loses elasticity making it less able to change shape and focus on near objects.

Hearing also begins to decline in the last part of early adulthood and into mid and later adulthood.

By the middle to late twenties and into the 30s fatty tissue begins to increase with a slowed metabolism that increases through later adulthood.



The two leading casues of death are accidents and suicide for those between the ages of 15 and 34

Inactivity begins to increase as well where obesity rate begin to climb along with substance use and abuse.

Dieting becomes common with rates of being overweight or obese increase from 25.6 percent for first-year postsecondary students to 32 percent for students in fourth year

Being overweight or obese is linked to many health concerns, including: hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mental health problems


Exercise rates vary during this perod of time and can take many forms and there is considerable difference between various types

Moderate activity - involves minimal exertion, including a small amout sweating and small increases breathing rates

Vigorous activity - involves considerable more exertion and considerable sweating and feeling of being out of breath

Aerobic exercise  - involves sustained exercise ove a period of time that stimulates cardio-pulmonary (heart & lung) activity


Substance abuse

Drinking Alcohol

As in adolescence, young men are more likely to take drugs than their female counterparts and binge drinking tends to peak at about age 21 to 22 and then declines through the remainder of twenties

In recent years binge drinking on the rise among Canadian women between the ages of 20 and 34  where 25% report it.

The brain continues to develop well in early adulthood hence drinking may lead to addiction faster because young adult’s brain is more susceptible to alcohol-induced toxicity 



Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation has come to be seem as somewhat of a spectrum or continuum from exclusive male-female relations to exclusive same-sex relations. 

Women are more likely to change their sexual patterns and desires  during this period of development than are men.

Sexual Orientation is most likely determined by combination of genetic, hormonal, cognitive, environmental factors  

Hypothalamic differences between gay and straight men as well as right hemisphere enlargement in males and lesbian women. Hormones appear also to play a role here.


Gay males who are given testosterone (male sex hormones) maintain their sexual orientation, but have increased sexual desire

Twins studies show that 50% concordance for monozygotic twins while only 11% for fraternals indicating some inherited factors.

Myers reports the fraternal birth order effect that suggests mother's immune respones grow stonger with subsequent male pregnancies. This is suspected to have an impact on the developing fetus' brain and body


Sexually transmitted infections (STI)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are diseases primarily contracted through sex (intercourse, oral-genital, anal-genital sex)
The most prevalent of STIs are bacterial infections (gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia) and viruses (AIDS -acquired immune deficiency syndrome, genital herpes, genital warts).

It is important know your own and one's partners’ risk statuses and to obtain regular medical examinations on top of having protected sex and refraining from sex with multiple partners .


Cognitive Development

Stages of cognitive development

It appears theorize that while most people consolidate formal operational thinking in adolescence that during early adulthood thinking becomes systematic and sophisticated.

Post-formal thought - is reflective, relativistic,and contextual thinking where ideas and truth is seen in a more provisional manner along with the recognition of emotional and spiritual influences.

There may be a decline in creativity with age however support and contexts must be taken into account across individuals. 

Creative people regularly experience a state of  flow invovling heightened state of ease of action and pleasure experienced when we are engaged in mental and physical challenges that absorb us, something like Maslow's peak experiences.

Creativity can help to reduces stress and anxiety, increase positive emotions and decreases depressive symptoms. It can also reduces distress and negative emotions and boosts the immune system, increase self-esteem and feelings of accomplishment, improve concentration and focus and happiness.


Careers and Work

For those of us in "western culture" work and career are central to defining whoe we are

It creates a structure and rhythm to life whereby without work, many people experience emotional distress and low self-esteem

Stress is a common component to work and career where today many people are seeking a work-life balance in looking for greater flexibility and control over the time and timing of work, including working remotely.

Unemployment typically produces stress regardless of whether the job loss is temporary, cyclical, or permanent.

Low self-control in childhood has been linked to persistence of unemployment from 21 to 50 years