Chapter 14


Social and Personality Development in Early Adulthood



Chapter Outline


I.        Forging Relationships:  Intimacy, Liking and Loving During Early Adulthood

A.     The Components of Happiness:  Fulfillment of Psychological Needs

1.      For young adults, happiness usually is derived from feelings of independence, competence, self-esteem, or relatedness.

2.      Culture influences which psychological needs are most important in determining happiness.

B.     The Social Clock of Adulthood

1.      The SOCIAL CLOCK, the psychological timepiece that records the major milestones in people’s lives, were fairly uniform until the middle of the 20th century.

a)      Most people moved through a series of developmental stages closely aligned with particular ages.

b)      Today, the timing at which major life events occur has changed considerably, especially for women.

(1)   Ravenna Helson found that traditional feminine behavior changed over time.

(a)    Although this behavior increased from age 21 to 27, it showed a decrease between the ages of 27 and 43.

(b)   This is likely a result of sex-role specialization and the role of mothering which decreases as children age.

(c)    Helson found that women who chose a family and those who chose a career both tended to show positive changes.

(d)   By contrast, women who had no strong focus on either family or career tended to show either little change or more negative shifts in personality development.

(2)   Helson believes that it isn’t the particular social clock a woman chooses so much as that clock is acceptable and justifiable.

C.     Erikson regards young adulthood as the time of the INTIMACY-VERSUS-ISOLATION STAGE, which is the period of postadolescence into the early 30s that focuses on developing close relationships with others.

1.      To Erikson, intimacy comprises several aspects.

a)      A degree of selflessness

b)      Sacrificing ones own needs to those of another

c)      Joint pleasure from focusing not just on one’s own gratification but also on that of one’s partner

d)      Deep devotion, marked by efforts to fuse ones identity with the identity of the partner

2.      Erikson suggests that those who experience difficulties during this stage are often lonely and isolated, and fearful of relationships with others.

a)      Their failure may stem from an earlier failure to develop a strong identity.

3.      Eriksons theory was limited to heterosexuals and focused more on mens development than womens.

D.     Friendships

1.      There is a need for belongingness that leads people in early adulthood to establish and maintain at least a minimum number of relationships with others.

2.      Most people form friendships with others who live nearby – proximity.

3.      similarity also plays an important role because we are attracted to people who hold attitudes and values similar to ours.

4.      The number of cross-race friendships dwindles by adolescence and continues through adulthood.

5.      We also choose friends on the basis of their personal qualities.

a)      Keep confidences

b)      Loyal

c)      Warm

d)      Affectionate

e)      Supportive

f)       Frank

g)      Good sense of humor

E.      Falling in Love:  When Liking Turns to Loving

1.      Most relationships develop in a surprisingly regular progression.

a)      Two people interact with each other more often and for longer periods of time.

b)      Two people increasingly seek out each other's company.

c)      They open up more and more and begin to share physical intimacies.

d)      Couple is more willing to share positive and negative feelings, criticize and praise.

e)      They begin to agree on the goals they hold for the relationship.

f)       Their reactions to situations become more similar.

g)      They begin to feel their psychological well-being is tied to success of relationship, viewing it as unique, irreplaceable, and cherished.

h)      They begin to see themselves as a couple rather than separate individuals.

F.      Bernard Murstein's STIMULUS-VALUE-ROLE (SVR) THEORY, is that relationships proceed in a fixed order of three stages:  stimulus, value, and role.

1.      The stimulus stage is when relationships are built on surface, physical characteristics such as the way a person looks.

2.      The value stage occurs between the second and seventh encounter and is characterized by increasing similarity of values and beliefs.

3.      The role stage is built on specific roles played by the participants (e.g. boyfriend/girlfriend).

4.      A criticism of Murstein is that not all relationships follow this pattern.

G.     Passionate and Companionate Love:  The Two Faces of Love

1.      Love differs qualitatively from liking.

a)      It involves intense physical arousal.

b)      It involves an all-encompassing interest in another person.

c)      It involves recurrent fantasies about the other individual.

d)      It involves rapid swings of emotion.

e)      It includes elements of closeness, passion, and exclusivity.

2.      Not all love is the same.

a)      PASSIONATE (OR ROMANTIC) LOVE is a state of powerful absorption in someone.

b)      COMPANIONATE LOVE is the strong affection we have for those with whom our lives are deeply involved.

c)      According to Elaine Hatfield and Ellen Berscheid's LABELING THEORY OF PASSIONATE LOVE, individuals experience romantic love when two events occur together:  intense physical arousal and situational cues that indicate that "love" is the appropriate label for the feelings being experienced.

H.     Robert Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love hypothesizes that love is made up of three components.

1.      The INTIMACY COMPONENT encompasses feelings of closeness, affection, and connectedness.

2.      The PASSION COMPONENT comprises the motivational drives relating to sex, physical closeness, and romance.

3.      The DECISION/COMMITMENT COMPONENT embodies both the initial cognition that one loves another person and the longer-term determination to maintain that love.

4.      Eight unique combinations of love can be formed.

a)      Nonlove occurs in the absence of all three components.

b)      Liking develops when only intimacy is present.

c)      Infatuated love exists for those who only feel passion.

d)      Empty love is when only decision/commitment is present.

e)      Romantic love occurs when both intimacy and passion are present.

f)       Companionate love is when intimacy and decision/commitment are present.

g)      Fatuous love exists when passion and decision/commitment are present.

h)      In Consummate love, all three components are present.

5.      Decision/commitment and intimacy can continue to grow over time, however passion tends to peak early, decline, and level off.

I.        Choosing a Partner:  Recognizing Mr. or Ms. Right

1.      Although love and mutual attraction are not the most desired characteristics across cultures, some preferred characteristics are similar across cultures.

a)      Men prefer a marriage partner who is physically attractive.

b)      Women prefer a marriage partner who is ambitious and industrious.

c)      David Buss believes we are programmed to seek out mates who will maximize the availability of beneficial genes.

d)      Critics argue that similarities reflect gender stereotyping and have nothing to do with evolution.

2.      Louis Janda and Karen Llenke-Hamel suggest that people seeking mates screen potential candidates.

a)      First, we filter for broad determinants of attractiveness.

b)      The end result is a choice based on compatibility between two individuals.

3.      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.

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

a)      Well-educated African-American women find it difficult to find a spouse according to the marriage gradient.

b)      Men have a larger pool to choose from.

J.       Attachment Styles and Romantic Relationships:  Do Adult Loving Styles Reflect Attachment in Infancy?

1.      According to Phillip Shaver, the influence of infants' attachment styles continues into adulthood and affects the nature of their romantic relationships.

a)      Adults with secure attachment readily enter into relationships and feel happy and confident about the future of the relationship (half of all adults).

b)      Adults who have avoidant attachment tend to be less invested in relationships, have higher break-up rates, and often feel lonely (one quarter of all adults).

c)      Adults who have anxious-avoidant attachment tend to become overly invested in relationships, have repeated break-ups with the same partner, and have relatively low self-esteem (20 percent of adults).

K.     Developmental Diversity:  Gay and Lesbian Relationships:  Men with Men and Women with Women

1.      Most gays and lesbians seek loving, long-term, and meaningful relationships that differ little qualitatively from those desired by heterosexuals.

II.     The Course of Relationships

A.     The past three decades have seen a dramatic rise in couples living together without being married, a status known as COHABITATION.

1.      The census bureau calls them POSSLQs, persons of the opposite sex sharing living quarters.

2.      They tend to be young — 40 percent are under age 25.

3.      African Americans are more likely to cohabitate than whites.

4.      The chances of divorce are somewhat higher for those who have cohabited.

B.     Marriage remains the preferred alternative for most people during early adulthood.

1.      It's the "right" thing to do.

2.      A spouse provides security and financial well-being.

3.      A spouse fills a sexual role.

4.      A spouse can provide a sounding board and act as a partner for activities.

5.      Marriage offers the only totally acceptable way to have children.

6.      Fewer U.S. citizens are married (62 percent) than at any time since 1890s.

a)      Higher divorce rate

b)      People are marrying later in life.

(1)   The median age for first marriage in the U.S. is 26 for men and 24 for women.

(2)   The delay represents economic concerns and commitment to establishing a career.

c)      90 percent eventually wed.

C.     What Makes Marriage Work?

1.      Partners in successful marriages display several characteristics.

a)      They visibly show affection to one another.

b)      They communicate relatively little negativity.

c)      They see themselves as part of an interdependent couple rather than two individuals.

d)      The experience social homogamy, a similarity in leisure activity and role references.

2.      Only about half of all marriages remain intact.

3.      Most divorces occur within the first 10 years of marriage.

4.      Nearly half of newly married couples experience a significant degree of marital conflict.

a)      Difficulty transitioning from being children to adults.

b)      Difficulty developing an identity apart from their spouse.

c)      Struggle to find time with spouse.

5.      However, for many, the newlywed period is the happiest time of their entire married life.

D.     The arrival of a child alters virtually every aspect of family life, in positive, and sometimes negative ways.

1.      Young adults typically cite psychological reasons for having children.

a)      pleasure watching them grow

b)      fulfillment from children's accomplishments

c)      satisfaction from seeing them become successful

d)      enjoyment of forging a close bond

e)      someone to take care of them in their old age

f)       someone to maintain the family business

g)      companionship

h)      a strong societal norm — 90% have a child

2.      Unwanted pregnancies occur most frequently in younger, poorer, and less educated couples.

3.      The use of contraceptives has dramatically decreased the number of children in the average American family.

a)      In the 1930s, families desired three or more children.

b)      Today, most families seek to have no more than two children.

c)      The fertility rate has declined from its all-time high post WWII level of 3.7 children per woman to below 2.0, which is less than the replacement level.

(1)   More women are using contraceptives.

(2)   More women are working.

(3)   Women are delaying having children until their 30s.

(4)   The cost of raising children is high.

4.      Close to three-quarters of married women with school-aged children are employed outside the home, a significant historical shift in the 20th century.

a)      Even with husbands helping, wives spend more time with their children and housework, and feel more stress and anxiety.

5.      20 percent of gay men and lesbian women are parents.

a)      Pre-child homosexual couples tend to split housework equally.

b)      After a child, one person tends to take over the majority of the child rearing tasks and the other the majority of the paid work outside the home.

c)      Research shows that children raised in homosexual homes show no differences in eventual adjustment than those raised in heterosexual homes.

III.   Work:  Choosing and Embarking on a Career

A.     According to George Vaillant, young adulthood is marked by a stage of development called CAREER CONSOLIDATION, a stage that is entered between the ages of 20 and 40 when young adults become centered on their careers.

B.     Vaillant argued that career concerns supplant the focus on intimacy.

1.      Critics argue that Vaillant's sample was limited to elite men from the 1930s, and that his results are not generalizable to today's young adults.

C.     According to Eli Ginzberg, people typically move through a series of stages in choosing a career.

1.      The first stage is the FANTASY PERIOD, which lasts until age 11, and is the period when career choices are made, and discarded, without regard to skills, abilities, or available job opportunities.

2.      During the TENTATIVE PERIOD, which spans adolescence, people begin to think in pragmatic terms about the requirements of various jobs and how their own abilities might fit with them.

3.      Finally, in early adulthood, people enter the REALISTIC PERIOD, during which people explore specific career options.

4.      Critics argue that Ginzberg's theory is too simplistic.

D.     According to John Holland, certain personality types match particularly well with certain careers.

1.      Realistic.  These people are down-to-earth, practical problem solvers, and physically strong, but their social skills are mediocre.  They make good farmers, laborers, and truck drivers.

2.      Intellectual.  Intellectual types are oriented toward the theoretical and abstract.  Although not particularly good with people, they are well suited to careers in math and science.

3.      Social.  The traits associated with the social personality type are related to verbal skills and interpersonal relations.  Social types are good at working with people, and consequently make good salespersons, teachers, and counselors.

4.      Conventional.  Conventional individuals prefer highly structured tasks. They make good clerks, secretaries, and bank tellers.

5.      Enterprising.  These individuals are risk-takers and take-charge types.  They are good leaders and may be particularly effective as managers or politicians.

6.      Artistic.  Artistic types use art to express themselves, and they often prefer the world of art to interactions with people.  They are best suited to occupations involving art.

7.      A major problem with Holland's theory is that not everyone fits neatly into a particular personality type.

E.      Although it is now illegal to advertise a position for a man or a woman, remnants of traditional gender-role prejudice persist.

1.      Traditionally, women were considered most appropriate for COMMUNAL PROFESSIONS, occupations associated with relationships.

2.      In contrast, men were perceived as best suited for AGENTIC PROFESSIONS, occupations associated with getting things accomplished.

3.      Women today are under-represented in male dominated professions such as engineering and computer programming.

4.      Women in many professions earn less than men in identical jobs.

5.      Between 1950 and 1990, women in the U.S. labor force increased from 35 percent to nearly 60 percent.

6.      Women and minorities in high-status, visible professional roles may hit the glass ceiling, an invisible barrier within an organization that, because of discrimination, prevents individuals from being promoted beyond a certain level.

F.      Why do people work?

1.      Some people work out of EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION, motivation that drives people to obtain tangible rewards, such as money or prestige.

2.      Some people work out of INTRINSIC MOTIVATION, motivation that causes people to work for their own enjoyment, not for the rewards work may bring.

3.      In many Western societies, people tend to subscribe to the Puritan work ethic, the notion that work is important in and of itself.

4.      Work also brings a sense of personal identity.

5.      Work may also be a central element in people's social lives.

6.      The kind of work people do is a factor in determining STATUS, which is the evaluation by society of the role a person plays.

7.      Job satisfaction depends on a number of factors.

a)      Status

b)      The nature of the job itself

c)      Job satisfaction increases when workers have input into the nature of their jobs.

d)      Variety

e)      Supervisors have more influence and hence more job satisfaction.




Key Terms and Concepts


Social clock

Intimacy-versus-isolation stage

Stimulus-value-role (SVR) theory

Passionate (or romantic) love

Companionate love

Labeling theory of passionate love

Intimacy component

Passion component

Decision/commitment component


Marriage gradient


Career consolidation

Fantasy period

Tentative period

Realistic period

Communal professions

Agentic professions

Extrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation