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Chapter 14
Social and Personality Development in Early Adulthood

The Components of Happiness: Fulfilling of Psychological Needs

What makes people happy? Money? Material objects?

According to research, happiness in young adulthood is usually derived from feelings of independence, competence, or self-esteem (psychological needs).

Culture influences which psychological needs are important for happiness (collectivism vs. individualism).

Women’s Social Clocks

The SOCIAL CLOCK is a term used to describe the psychological timepiece that records the major milestones in our lives.

Social clocks are culturally determined.

Many women exhibit traditional feminine behavior from age 21 to 27, finding a spouse, becoming mothers. As children grow up, women take on less traditional roles.

Longitudinal studies show that women become more self-disciplined and committed over the years. They feel greater independence and confidence & can cope better with stress.

Helson concluded that the social clock one chooses is not as important in maturation as the process of choosing.

Seeking Intimacy: Erikson’s View of Young Adulthood

Erikson regarded young adulthood as the time of the INTIMACY-VERSUS-ISOLATION STAGE.

It spans post-adolescence into the early 30s.

Focus is on developing close, intimate relationship with others.

Intimacy involves (1) selflessness, (2) sexuality, & (3) deep devotion (fusing identity with another).

People who experience difficulties at this stage are often lonely and fearful of relationships, perhaps from a failure of the identity stage.

Limits: Erikon’s view of healthy intimacy was limited to marriage, and the goal was to produce children. He also focused primarily on male development.


Maintaining friendships is an important part of adult life, filling a basic need for belongingness.

How do people become our friends?

Proximity – live nearby, work with us.

Similarity – hold similar attitudes and values.

Most adults have same-race friends.

We also choose friends based on personal qualities.

Keep confidences





Good sense of humor

Falling in Love: When Liking Turns to Loving

Most relationships develop in similar ways

People meet, interact for long periods of time.

Seek out each other’s company.

Open up more.

Share physical intimacies.

Share positive and negative feelings.

Agree on roles in relationship.

Feel psychological well-being tied to success of relationship.

Their definition of themselves and their behavior changes.

They see themselves and act as a couple, rather than separate individuals.

Passionate and Companionate Love: The Two Faces of Love

Not all love is the same.

PASSIONATE (ROMANTIC LOVE) – state of powerful absorption in someone. Includes intense physiological arousal and caring for another’s needs.

COMPANIONATE LOVE – strong affection we have for those with whom our lives are deeply involved.

Companionate love is associated with long-term happy marriage.

Sternberg’s Triangular Theory: The Three Faces of Love

Robert Sternberg says that love is made up of three components:


Feelings of closeness, affection, connection.


Motivational drives relating to sex, physical closeness, and romance.


Thoughts of love and determination to maintain that love.

The Combinations of Love (Sternberg)

Seeking a Spouse: Is Love All That Matters?

In the U.S., people emphasize love as a major factor.

In other cultures, love may be a secondary consideration, although still relatively high on the list of important characteristics.

What characteristics are important besides love?

U.S.—love and mutual attraction.

China---men: good health; women: emotional stability & maturity.

South Africa/Zulu—men: emotional stability, women: dependable character.

Choosing a mate (continued)

Gender differences in preferred characteristics exist

Men prefer physical attraction

Women prefer ambition, industriousness

~ Why?

Psychologist David Buss points out that human beings, as a species, seek out certain characteristics to maximize beneficial genes and reproductive success (evolutionary perspective).


Critics of evolutionary approach argue that similarities across cultures relating to gender preferences reflect gender stereotyping and have nothing to do with evolution.

They say it is a rational choice for women to prefer a high earning-potential spouse and that men can afford to be concerned only with looks.


What determines compatibility?

Pleasing personality characteristics are not the only factors. Cultural components play a role.

People often marry according to the principle of HOMOGAMY, or the tendency to marry someone who is similar in age, race, education, religion, and other basic demographic characteristics.

The MARRIAGE GRADIENT is the tendency for men to marry women who are slightly younger, smaller, and lower in status and for women to marry men who are slightly older, larger, and higher in status.


Attachment Styles and Romantic Relationships

Infant attachment style is reflected in adult romantic relationships (Shaver).


Happy and confident about future of their relationships (over 50%).


Less invested, higher break-up rates, often feel lonely (25%).


Overly invested, repeated break-ups with same partner, low self-esteem (20%).

Attachment Style (continued)

Attachment style related to nature of care adults give to their romantic partners when they need assistance.

Secure adults are more sensitive and supportive.

Anxious adults are more compulsive, intrusive.

People have relationship difficulties should look back to infant styles for insight into how to be more adaptive in adult relationships.

The Course of Relationships

COHABITATION – living together without being married.

Tend to be young.

Most are white, but higher percentage of African-Americans.

Not ready for a commitment, or practice for marriage or may be rejecting marriage altogether.

Those who cohabit before marriage have somewhat higher divorce rates.

Relationships (continued)

Most people (90%) still marry, though marriage as an institution has changed over time.

Fewer U.S. citizens are married currently than ever before (62%), because of later first marriage & divorce.

Divorce rates remain high (about 50% percent).

People are marrying older. In US:

Median age for men first marriage – 27.

Median age for women first marriage – 25.


What Makes Marriage Work?

Successful married partners:

Show affection.

Communicate relatively little negativity.

Perceive themselves as interdependent.

Experience social homogamy, similarity in leisure activity, and role preferences.

Hold similar interests.

Agree on a distribution of roles.

Early Marital Conflict

Nearly half of married couples experience significant degree of conflict.

Realities of daily living sink in, and they become more aware of flaws.

Sources of conflict:

Separating from parents, becoming autonomous.

Some have trouble identifying with spouse, and some want to have separate identity from spouse.

Parenthood: Choosing to Have Children

A middle-class family with two children will spend about $233,000 for each child before the child reaches the age of 18.

People have children for psychological reasons.

Pleasure of watching them grow.

Hope children will provide for them in old age or offer companionship.

Most married couples have at least one child.

Having Children (continued)

Some children are unplanned, but couples cope, because they wanted children eventually.

But some unplanned children are unwanted.

Today most families have no more than 2 children, rate in U.S. today is 2.1 children per woman (in 1957, it was 3.7 children per woman).

Women are having children later today, into their late 30s and older.

Dual-Earner Couples

Close to ¾ of married women with school-aged children work outside the home.

More than 50% of mothers of 1-year-olds work outside the home.

In majority of families, both partners work, but wife generally spend more time taking care of the children.

Husbands do outside chores mostly, and women do the housework, child care, meal preparation.


Impact of Children on Parents

Birth of child brings about dramatic shift in spouse's roles and for some a decrease in marital satisfaction.

Stress may be greater for the mother if she has most of the childcare responsibilities.

The arrival of children tends to stress an already distressed marriage further, but can increase satisfaction in a happy marriage.

Factors that permit couples to successfully weather stress of child:

Work to build fondness and affection towards each other.

Remain aware of events in spouse's life, and respond to those events.

Consider the challenges controllable and solvable.

Gay and Lesbian Parents

About 20% of gay and lesbian adults are parents.

Compared to heterosexual households, gay and lesbian parents:

Tend to divide household labor more evenly.

But, as with heterosexual couples, one partner seems to take on more childrearing role, while other spend more time in paid employment.

Children in gay and lesbian households show no difference in terms of psychological adjustment from those raised in heterosexual homes.

Staying Single

About 20 % of women and 30% of men in U.S. choose singlehood, and about 10% will spend their entire adult lives single. Reasons include:

They view marriage as negative.

They view marriage as restrictive.

They don’t find anyone they want to spend the rest of their lives with.

They value independence, autonomy, and freedom.

Society stigmatizes single individuals, particularly women.

Identity During Young Adulthood: The Role of Work

CAREER CONDOLIDATION – stage that begins between the ages of 20 and 40, in which young adults become centered on their careers.

According to Vaillant, people work hard to advance in their jobs, and the career focus supplants personal intimacy as a bridge between Erikson’s intimacy and generativity stages.

Vaillant only studied men.

Picking an Occupation

Ginzberg’s Career Choice Theory holds that people move through a series of stages in choosing a career:

Fantasy period – Lasts until 11 years old. Career choices are made without regard to skills, abilities, or available jobs.

Tentative period – During adolescence, begin to think about job requirements and how their abilities and interests fit them.

Realistic period – Young adults explore specific career options through actual experience or through training for a profession.

Critics say this theory oversimplifies the career choice process.

Gender and Career Choices: Women’s Work

Today women’s options for careers are unlimited. It has not always been that way.

Traditionally, women were considered most appropriate for COMMUNAL PROFESSIONS, associated with relationships (like teachers) and men were thought to be better at AGENTIC PROFESSIONS (getting things accomplished).

Today, women are less likely to be found in male-dominated professions like engineering and computer programming.

Women’s wages still lag behind those of men, even though opportunities are greater.

Women seem to hit the "glass ceiling," an invisible barrier that prevents promotions beyond a certain level.

Why Do People Work?

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION drives people to obtain tangible rewards, such as money and prestige.

INTRINSIC MOTIVATION drives people to work for its own reward.

A sense of personal identity.

A central element in one’s social life.

Work is a factor in determining STATUS, the evaluation by society of the role a person plays.

Satisfaction on the Job

Satisfaction associated with job status.

Status isn’t everything. Worker satisfaction associated with:

Nature of job.

Amount of input one has into one’s duties.

Influence employees have other others.