Developmental Psychology

Lecture 17



Choices & transitions to adulthood

What signals adulthood?

Stage theories of adulthood

Theories of career development

Women’s career choices

Positive orientation in young adulthood


Choices During Young Adulthood

Educational Goals & Career Aspirations

Lifestyle, Satisfaction, & Social Groups

Families & Reconciling Relationships

Partners, Cohabitation, Marriage

Moving out, moving in

Having children


Many Choices are

Anxiety provoking

Pressured by peers, partners, & parents

Often not rational

Sometimes made without commitment

Seen as temporary and changeable later



Adolescent - Youth - Adult

Not marked by age alone

Vary greatly among people

Dependent upon social roles, expectations, and opportunities


What Made You Feel Like an Adult? (Hoffman & Manis, 1979)

For most women - getting married and becoming a parent

For most men - supporting yourself and independent living


Theories of Adult Development

Erikson - intimacy vs isolation

Levinson - changing social roles

Gould - inevitable turmoil

Gutmann - parental imperative


Erickson’s Theory - Young Adulthood

Positive identity achievement in adolescence is a foundation

Major task is to develop intimacy and to avoid alienation

Greater problem for men perhaps


Levinson’s Theory: Seasons of Life

Age Major Task

17-22 = Transition to independence

22-28 = Establish adult roles

28-33 = Reflect and make new choices

33-40 = Consolidate career & family goals


Levinson’s Theory:Seasons of Life

Early Adult Transition

Form a dream

Form a mentor relationship

Form an occupation

Form a marriage and family

Leads to identity & intimacy


Levinson’s Theory: Seasons of Life

Mid-life Transition

Rebalance the young-old polarity

Rebalance the destruction-creation polarity

Rebalance the masculine-feminine polarity

Rebalance the attachment-separateness polarity

Leads to clarified values & generativity


Gould’s Theory

17-22 yrs Forge identity

22-28 yrs Attain goals

28-34 yrs Question life

35-43 yrs Create stability


Gutmann’s Theory

Parental imperative accentuates gender differences

Men - autonomy, competence, control

Women - nurturance, sympathy, understanding


Similarities Across Theories

Autonomy & Intimacy




Reorder Priorities

BUT -- social expectations depend on history & culture


Are We Moving to an Age Irrelevant Society?

Social expectations and "social clocks" changing

Adult crises are responses to unexpected changes

Self-esteem depends on social expectations and gender roles in a society


Theories of Career Development

Ginzburg - Developmental theory

3 stages

Fantasy - until 11 years old

Tentative - 11-17 years

Realistic - 18-20s

But large variations and maybe only for middle-class youth who have more choices


Theories of Career Development

Donald Super - Career self-concept theory

Vocational interests and identities change

Crystallization - 14-18 years

Specification - 18-22

Implementation - 21-24

Stabilization - 25-35

Consolidation - after 35


Theories of Career Development

John Holland - Personality type theory

Match personality type with career

Realistic - blue collar, low prestige

Investigative - idea-oriented, highest prestige

Artistic - creative expression

Social - helping orientation

Enterprising - goal-oriented, dominate others

Conventional - clerical tasks


Women’s Choices:Family or Career in 20’s?

Family Track

marry and raise kids in 20’s so kids are independent in 30’s

CHOICE: work, home, or college in 30’s & 40’s

possible over-dependence on partner

Career track

college or work in 20’s

establish career in 30’s

CHOICE: Career or family in 30’s & 40’s

leads to commitment


Women in Their 30’s Who Choose the Family Track Face Risks such as:

Less education

Lower earning power

Dependence on spouse

Disproportionate child care responsibilities

Depression of stay-at-home moms

Re-entry to jobs at lower levels

Gender differences exaggerated in 30’s


Life Contour of Work in Adulthood

Selection and entry - 20s

Adjustment - Age 30 transition

Maintenance - Middle age

Retirement - 50-80?

Depends on economic, cultural, and historical opportunities


What leads to positive orientation in young adults?

Pulkkinen & Ronka (1994)

Identity Achievement

Personal Control

social support


Future Orientation


intrinsic motivation


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