Chapter 12 Socioemotional Development in Early Adulthood Stability and Change from Childhood to Adulthood

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Chapter 12 Socioemotional Development in Early Adulthood

Stability and Change from Childhood to Adulthood

For adults, socioemotional development revolves around adaptively integrating our emotional experiences into enjoyable relationships with others on a daily basis

The first 20 years of life are not meaningless in predicting an adult’s socioemotional life

Attachment plays an important part in socioemotional development

Adult’s attachment is categorized as secure, avoidant, or anxious:

Secure attachment style

Adults have positive views of relationships

Avoidant attachment style

Adults are hesitant to get involved in romantic relationships

Anxious attachment style

Adults demand closeness, are less trusting, and more emotional, jealous, and possessive

Love and Close Relationships

Love -- vast and complex territory of human behavior, spanning a range of relationships that includes friendship, romantic love, affectionate love, and consummate love

intimacy -- self-disclosure and the sharing of private thoughts


Erikson’s Stage: Intimacy Versus Isolation  

After individuals are well on their way to establishing stable and successful identities, they enter the sixth developmental stage, which is intimacy versus isolation

Finding oneself by losing oneself in another person

If a person fails to develop an intimate relationship in early adulthood, according to Erikson, isolation results

Intimacy and Independence

Development in early adulthood often involves balancing intimacy and commitment with independence and freedom

Intimacy and commitment, and independence and freedom are important themes of development that are worked and reworked throughout the adult years


Friendship plays an important role in development throughout the human life span

Women have more close friends and their friendships involve more self-disclosure and exchange of mutual support

Talk is central to their relationships

Women share many aspects of their experiences, thoughts, and feelings

Romantic Love

Some friendships evolve into romantic love

Also called passionate love, or eros

Romantic love has strong components of sexuality and infatuation

Often predominates in the early part of a love relationship

Sexual desire is the most important ingredient of romantic love

Affectionate Love

Affectionate love -- type of love that occurs when someone desires to have the other person near and has a deep, caring affection for the person

also called companionate love

As love matures, passion tends to give way to affection

Consummate Love and Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory

Sternberg proposed a triarchic theory of love in which love can be thought of as a triangle with three main dimensions—passion, intimacy, and commitment

Passion is physical and sexual attraction to another

Intimacy relates to the emotional feelings of warmth, closeness, and sharing in a relationship

Commitment is the cognitive appraisal of the relationship and the intent to maintain the relationship

Adult Lifestyles: Single Adults

More adults are remaining single longer today

In the last 30 years, there has been a dramatic rise in the percentage of single adults


Freedom to make decisions about one’s life course, pursue one’s own schedule, privacy

Common problems


Forming intimate relationships with other adults

Finding a niche in a society that is marriage-oriented


Cohabitation -- living together in a sexual relationship without being married

cohabitation has changed

many couples view their cohabitation as an ongoing lifestyle


Disapproval by parents

Difficulty owning property jointly

Legal rights on the dissolution of the relationship are less certain

Elevated risk of partner violence

Marital Trends:

Marriage rates have declined in recent years

Marriage in adolescence is more likely to end in divorce

Getting married in the U.S. between 23 and 27 resulted in a lower likelihood of divorce

Average duration of marriage in the U.S. is just over nine years

Percentage of married persons who said they were “very happy” declined from 1970s to 1990s, but recently began to increase

Men report being happier in marriage than women

Married Adults

Changing norm of male-female equality means marital relationships are more fragile and intense

More than 90 percent of U.S. women still marry at some point in their lives; projections indicate that in the future this rate will drop into 80–90 percent range

Marriages in adolescence are more likely to end in divorce than marriages in adulthood

Average duration of a marriage in the United States is currently just over nine years

The Benefits of a Good Marriage

Individuals who are happily married live longer, healthier lives than either divorced individuals or those who are unhappily married

People in unhappy marriages may experience numerous physical ailments, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse

Divorced Adults

Increases in divorce are correlated with youthful marriage, low educational level, low income, not having a religious affiliation, divorced parents, having a baby before marriage

These characteristics also increase the likelihood of divorce:

Alcoholism, psychological problems, domestic violence, infidelity, and inadequate division of household labor

Remarried Adults

Divorced adults remarry within three years after their divorce

Men remarry sooner than women

Men with higher incomes are more likely to remarry

Remarriage occurs sooner for partners who initiate a divorce

Adults who get remarried have a lower level of mental health (depression)

Financial status improves after remarrying

More shared decision making

Gay and Lesbian Adults

The legal and social context of marriage creates barriers to breaking up that do not exist for same-sex partners

But in other ways, researchers have found that gay and lesbian relationships are similar to heterosexual relationships in their satisfactions, loves, joys, and conflict

Contrary to stereotypes, one partner is masculine and the other feminine in only a small percentage of gay male and lesbian couples

Only a small segment has a large number of sexual partners

Prefer a long-term, committed relationship

Making Marriage Work

Gottman found a number of main principles determining whether a marriage will work:

Establishing love maps

Nurturing fondness and admiration

Turning toward each other instead of away

Letting your partner influence you

Creating shared meaning

Becoming a Parent

By giving birth to fewer children, women free up time for other endeavors

Working women invest less actual time in the child’s development

Men are apt to invest a greater amount of time in fathering

Parental care is often supplemented by institutional care

There are advantages and disadvantages to having children early and later in life

Strategies for Divorced Adults

Hetherington recommends these:

Think of divorce as a chance to grow personally and to develop more positive relationships

Make decisions carefully

Focus more on the future than the past

Use your strengths and resources to cope with difficulties

Don’t expect to be successful and happy in everything you do

Gender and Communication

Tannen distinguishes two ways of communications:

Rapport talk -- language of conversation; a way of establishing connections and negotiating relationships

Report talk -- talk that is designed to give information; includes public speaking

Women enjoy rapport talk more than report talk; men’s lack of interest in rapport talk bothers many women

Men prefer to engage in report talk

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