Adulthood is the phase in which people experience physical and psychological changes experiencing a myriad of emotions. These changes are vital in this stage, explaining adulthood in terms of opportunities and obstacles.
The factors that determine the beginning of adulthood are - completing education, becoming financially independent, living independently, getting married, having children, etc. Adulthood is divided into three stages - early adulthood (20-40 years), middle adulthood (40-60 years), and late adulthood (60 years and above).
- Early adulthood is a phase of confusion and indecisiveness which builds the skills of self-introspection and contemplation. These skills help in reducing the confusion in the adults when acted promptly. Opinions about life and preferences change once you step into this stage. Thus, re-exploring into different facets of life and learning- unlearning diverse concepts often makes you skeptical.
- Middle adulthood is a phase where you are struggling with different issues during midlife. But not everyone experiences a midlife crisis. Many people, during midlife, experience this change in terms of their roles and relationships.
- Late adulthood is when you have enriched experiences, wisdom, and learning from all the years of livelihood. The challenges mostly come in the degeneration of physical, sexual, and cognitive functionality. However, social and cultural factors act as a support system to deal with it. This phase is like the finest wine preserved over time, which needs to be handled with the finest care at hand.
Adulthood is a process that requires trial and error methods to learn coping skills to deal with the frequent life changes. We are not born with adulting skills. We learn with experience and time. Sometimes the situations and experiences might be too overwhelming, causing too much pressure and stress in the person. Seeking help from professionals when in a disturbed state of mind should be accepted and encouraged to learn and imbibe the effective ways to age successfully.
According to the lifespan perspective, the growth and development of an individual do not stop in childhood or adolescence. It continues throughout adulthood. Many theories in psychology explain the transition during adulthood. This theory is referred to as the Seasons of life theory, which focuses on the different stages of adulthood.
Levinson’s theory of development explains the underlying patterns of a person’s life at a particular time, the evolving cognitive growth, and individual’s views about the nature and meaning of life. Levinson divides adult years into four stages.
- The first era is the era of pre-adulthood. This transition involves choices about adult life. This period includes an evaluation of the considerable preferences of adulthood. Planning and organizing the activities and experiencing adulthood make this period crucial.
- The second era is early adulthood which focuses on learning the life structure. The individual at this stage develops psychosocially, which involves multiple domains. These domains are related to self, emotional development, marriage and social life, family relationships. During this period, the individual plans about mid and late adulthood experiences.
- The third stage is middle adulthood, in which the individual reevaluates the previous commitments, searching for a long-term purpose and meaning in life. This leads to the formation of a new life structure, one that considers redefining the various aspects of life, starting from careers to relationships.
- The fourth stage is late adulthood, in which the individuals experience significant life changes. Their life structure includes the chances of readjusting to the new patterns of life.
Jeffrey Arnett pointed out the transitional period as emerging adulthood, which is crucial in life span development. The changes reflect the broad scope of individual volition during these years. Emerging adults do not see themselves as adolescents, but many do not see themselves entirely as adults.
The individualistic qualities of oneself consisting of accepting responsibility, making independent decisions, and becoming financially independent are the important characteristics that define emerging adulthood. Exploring life in terms of possibilities and moving towards making enduring life decisions is distinct at this stage.
Kohlberg’s theory of moral development explains the three levels of moral reasoning, i.e., pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional, that evolve with age. The post-conventional stage elucidates the phase of adulthood which is characterized by the individual’s understanding of the societal guidelines. They obey as well as evaluate the existing societal norms and laws in terms of their prior considerations.
They understand that the traditional system exists for the good of the people, but at times they may act on aspects of their current prospects to make society better. At this stage, the legal and moral opinions coincide, creating a dilemmatic or a conflictual situation. People develop their own set of moral guidelines which may or may not fit the law.
The commitment to justice becomes more important than the commitment to the social contract. Martin Luther King, for example, argued that laws are only valid insofar as they are grounded injustice and that a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws.
As adults, we live through the journey we had as a child or teenager reaping the results of what we sowed in those powerful and productive years of life. The word Adult came from “adultus,” which means “grown to full size and strength or matured.” This brings to light the transition that has unfolded in an individual's life from the time they were born.
This stage brings the transition of an individual taking up new challenges, opportunities as a member of the society, professional role and responsibilities, role as a parent, spouse, breadwinner, etc. The most indispensable part of this stage is the Progression or Regression as an adult building over the foundational experiences, learning of childhood, teenagers that an adult chooses overtime to define himself and others around them in life.
As defined by Abraham Maslow, “as one becomes an adult, the quest for self-actualization begins and once again must work to fulfill their most basic physiological, safety and security needs by becoming independent.”
Adulthood has many factors that have changed over time in the past decade, with some trendsetters like the baby boomers born during or post world war - II who rejected and redefined the traditional values prevalent in that period. In the early centuries, adulthood was confined to gaining financial sustenance, becoming independent, getting married and starting a family, fulfilling the responsibilities of a parent as you raised a child, but in the current context, some things have changed.
In current times single parenthood, staying single, choosing not to have children or adoption, late marriage, or second marriage has become a common scenario. Rather many people start a new career, skill, etc., in the latter period of adulthood. As overtime, the concept of family, sex, sexuality, parenthood, marriage are changing, so the attributes, roles, characteristics, and expectation from an individual who has altered into the adulthood stage.
One of the major transitions observed in the current scenario is the increased possibilities an individual can explore as they go through the stage of adulthood, impacting the role they play in society. As Carl Jung said, “Life really does begin at forty. Up till then, you are just doing research” explains the importance, dynamics of this stage of life.
- Oprah Gail Winfrey is an American talk show host, television producer, actress, author, and philanthropist. Despite the challenges in life since her childhood, she faced every single hardship with courage and fortitude. She is a global icon who has been inspiring millions of women and empowering them through her actions and words. Oprah published her magazine, "The Oprah Magazine," and started a radio channel, "Oprah Radio." She is best known for the award-winning talk show. She has also worked in films, television series, and plays. While Oprah was in high school, her communication skills emphasizing emotions won her people's attention. Her unique style of communication on television empathizing with the guests creates an environment where the guests feel more comfortable and are willing to share personal information.
- Barack Obama was the first African American to become the president of the United States. He served as the 44th President of the US. His personality comprises the values received from his family. Obama comes from a middle-class family where he learned the importance of good fortune, hard work, and good education. Obama is considered to be one of the most dynamic figures in US politics. The whole world appreciates his oratory and communication skills. Obama is not only famous as a President but also popular for his literary works. His popular books include "Dreams from my father: A story of race and inheritance," "The Audacity of Hope," "Change We Can Believe In," and others. His books have inspired people and guided them through their lives. Obama believes that books can enrich our lives to a great extent.