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Physical and Cognitive Development in Early Adulthood
Chapter 13
Robert S. Feldman
Physical Development and the Senses
Physical development and maturation complete
Peak of physical capabilities
Brain wave patterns show more mature patterns
Senses are at peak
Most professional athletes at peak during early adulthood (psychomotor abilities such as hand-eye coordination, etc.)
Motor Functioning, Fitness, and Health: Staying Well
Physical Fitness
Superior physical capabilities require exercise and diet
No more than 10% Americans exercise enough to keep themselves in good physical shape
Less than 20% participate in moderate exercise on regular basis
Largely an upper- and middle-class phenomenon

Benefits of Exercise
Cardiovascular fitness increase
Lung capacity increases, raising endurance
Stronger muscles and greater flexibility
Greater range of movement
More elasticity in muscles, tendons, and ligaments
Reduction in osteoporosis
Optimization of immune response
Decreased stress level
Increased sense of control over their bodies and feeling of accomplishment

Causes of Death
Leading causes of death among young adults (ages 25-34) are:
Heart disease
At 35, illness/disease leading causes (1st time since infancy)
Causes of Death
Gender & SES differences:
Men more likely to die from accident
African-Americans twice the death rate of Caucasians
Significantly higher in US than other developed countries – 21.9 per 100,000
Fifth most frequent cause of death for young White Americans(1 in 131 chance in lifetime)
Most frequent cause of death for African-Americans (1 in 21 chance in lifetime)

Figure 13-2: Tracking Murder
Secondary Aging
Lifestyle decisions, including the use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, or engaging in unprotected sex, can hasten secondary aging
Secondary aging: aging caused by environmental factors or behavior
This can also increase a young adult’s risk of dying
Developmental Diversity
Influence of Cultural Beliefs
Cultural health beliefs, along with demographic and psychological barriers, reduce people’s use of physicians and medical care.

Latinos are the least likely of any Western ethnic group to seek the help of physician.

Lower socioeconomic status reduces the ability to pay for traditional medical care.

Eating, Nutrition, and Obesity
Most young adults know which foods are healthy, but ignore good nutrition
Physical growth begins to decline
Calorie reduction necessary
31% of adult population classified as overweight
Obesity: 7% of men and 10% of women between the ages of 20 and 25
Age and Obesity
Physical Disabilities in Young Adulthood: Coping With Physical Challenge
Some 50+ million Americans are physically challenged.
Fewer than 10% of people with major handicaps have finished high school.

Fewer than 25% of disabled men and 15% of disabled women work full time.
Adults with handicaps are often unemployed, or stuck in routine, low-paying jobs.

Barriers: Discrimination and Prejudice
Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), many older buildings are inaccessible to wheelchairs.

Prejudice and discrimination affect the way disabled people think of themselves.
Pity, avoidance
Treating adults as children
Seeing disabled person as a category rather than individual

Stress and Coping in Early Adulthood
STRESS: Physical and emotional response to events that threaten or challenge an individual

Pleasant events and unpleasant events

Long-term, continuous exposure may result in a reduction of body's ability to deal with stress

Lazarus and Folkman
People move through series of stages that determine whether or not they will experience stress


Predicting Stressful Event (Shelly Taylor, 1991)
Events producing negative emotions are more likely to lead to stress.
Uncontrollable or unpredictable situations are more likely to produce stress.
Ambiguous and confusing situations produce more stress.
Simultaneous tasks demands are more likely to experience stress.
Consequences of Stress
Medical problems caused by interaction of body, emotions, mind

Effort to reduce or tolerate threats that lead to stress

Types of Coping
Problem-focused coping

Emotion-focused coping

Social support coping

Defense coping involves
Hardiness, Resilience, and Coping
Hardiness is a personality characteristic associated with lower rate of stress-related illness.
Resilience is the ability to withstand, overcome, and actually thrive following profound adversity.

Intellectual Growth in Early Adulthood
Physical development slows down during early adulthood, but does cognitive?
What did Piaget propose?
Postformal Thought
Giesela Labouvie-Vief: nature of thinking changes in early adulthood
Adult predicaments are sometimes solved by relativistic thinking rather than pure logic.
Postformal thought acknowledges that world sometimes lacks purely right and wrong solutions so adults must draw upon prior experiences to solve problems.

Life Events and Cognitive Development
Major life events may lead to cognitive growth
Think about the world in novel, more complex, sophisticated, and often less rigid ways
Apply postformal thought (Labouvie-Vief)
Postformal Thought: Perry
Adulthood is period of not just gaining knowledge, but also of learning ways of understanding the world.
College students move from dualistic thinking to being able to understand multiple perspectives on an issue.
They also realize authorities don’t have all the answers.
Intelligence: What Matters in Early Adulthood?
Intelligence is made up of three major components:
Componential aspects: analyze data & solve problems rationally
Experiential components: relationship between intelligence, prior experience, & ability to cope with new situations
Contextual factors: success in facing demands of everyday life

Practical intelligence: learned by observing others and modeling their behavior
Emotional intelligence: the set of skills that underlie the accurate assessment, evaluation, expression, and regulation of emotions
Creativity: Novel Thought in Early Adulthood

Early adulthood
Peak of creativity
Many of professional problems are novel
Willing to take risks

Figure: works produced @ various ages

Higher Education
College is period of developmental growth that encompasses mastery not just of particular bodies of knowledge, but of ways of understanding world.

College: Pursuing Higher Education
Nationwide, higher percentage of white students enter college

Only about 40% of those who start graduate from college in 4 years

More women than men attend college

Average age increasing (31)

Figure 13-9: College Enrollment by Racial Group
Figure 13-10: Level of Education
College Adjustment: Reacting to the Demands of College Life
First year adjustment reaction
Particularly affects unusually successful students in high school
Passes for most as friends made and integration into college life occurs
Serious psychological consequences for few
Depression in College Students

Why do differences exist in gender distribution in classes and attrition rates?
Gender and College Performance
Prejudice and discrimination
Hostile sexism
Benevolent sexist

Differences exist in gender distribution in classes and attrition rates

Stereotype Threat and Disidentification with School

Stereotype Threat
Stereotype threat: obstacles to performance that come from awareness of the stereotypes held by society about academic abilities:
“African-Americans don’t do well in academic pursuits.”
“Women lack ability in math and science.”

Women and African Americans perform less well in college because of academic disidentification.
Dropping Out of College
Half of all students drop out of college

Marriage, children, or death of family member
Academic difficulties
Financial difficulties
Time off to mature