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Early Adulthood Developmental Psychology

Learn about early adulthood development and careers in this area

early adulthood development

The life stage called early adulthood defines individuals between the ages of 20 and 35, who are typically vibrant, active and healthy, and are focused on friendships, romance, child bearing and careers. Yet serious conditions, such as violent events, depression and eating disorders, can negatively impact young adults.

Physical Changes

Females reach their adult heights by age 18, and, except for some males who continue to grow in their early 20s, most have reached their adult heights by the age of 21. However, muscles continue to gain mass - especially among males, and both genders continue to add body fat. Average weight gain for both women and men is about 15 pounds.

Death rates due to disease are low in this life stage, but the rate of violence-related deaths is high. A 2005 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Violent Death Reporting System states that violent death is highest for people ages 20 to 24, and overall, men are more likely than women to die violently. Violent death includes homicide, suicide and motor-vehicle deaths. The CDC reports that of approximately 50,000 violent deaths in the United States each year, more than 56 percent of those deaths are suicide, and 30 percent are homicides.

Another area of concern for people in this age group is eating disorders, which include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 percent to 10 percent of individuals with anorexia die within 10 years after contracting the disease, and 18 percent to 20 percent die after 20 years.

Cognitive Changes

Debate among developmentalists center on whether or not to assign a formal cognitive stage to early adulthood. Earlier life stages result in dramatic and critical changes, whereas in early adulthood essential brain growth already has taken place, and individuals are now applying and using their knowledge, and analytical capabilities.

Psychology

However many researchers point to continued changes, such as those taking place in the frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex of the brain, which are areas where judgment, planning, speaking, and moving muscles are localized. Brain growth in this area only reaches final development in the early 20s.

Additionally, many theorists, such as Jean Piaget (1896-1980) noted a significant difference between adult and adolescent thinking. Adults have more flexibility in their thought patterns, understanding that there are multiple opinions on issues, and that there is more than one way to approach a problem.

Young adults are able to assimilate and synthesize complex and contradictory situations and arguments, and unlike adolescents, aren't set on finding absolute truths. They are focused on developing their careers and achieving independence from their families - a crucial requirement for balanced, well functioning adults.

Emotional Changes.

Theorist Erik Erikson (1902-1994) maintained that individuals develop in psychosocial stages, and that early adulthood marks the time when individuals seek to form intimate relationships. And Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) argued that a healthy adult is one who can "love and work." Simply stated, this developmental stage is characterized by relationships and work.

Intimacy can be actualized through close friendships, romantic relationships, starting a family, or all three. Erickson argued that a firm sense of identity, gained in earlier developmental stages, was integral to entering intimate relationships, and research has supported this argument. Studies repeatedly find that those lacking a strong sense of identity have less satisfactory relationships, and they tend to be more emotionally isolated, lonely and depressed.

And depression is a major concern for individuals in their 20s to mid-thirties: most people diagnosed with major depression receive a diagnosis in this life stage. Depression is linked to violence, especially suicide, and eating disorders.

The Eating Disorder Foundation asserts that "eating disorders are not just about food and weight. They are an attempt to use food intake and weight control to manage emotional conflicts that actually have little or nothing to do with food or weight." The Foundation reports that eating disorders affect more women than men, about 10 million U.S. women, but the rates in men are rising. Approximately 1 million U.S. men suffer from an eating disorder, a number that has doubled in the last ten years.

And episodes of mild or severe depression in earlier developmental stages should not be minimized. A 2009 article in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found a link between mild adolescent depression and depression in early and later adulthood. The article cited a study that started in 1983, and followed teenagers, identified as having mood, anxiety (see Anxiety) and eating disorders, disruptive behaviors, and substance abuse problems, into their 20s and 30s. These teens reported significant, major depression in adulthood - and they were more likely to suffer from anxiety and eating disorders as adults.

Developmental psychology professionals are often involved in designing programs that enhance social problem-solving and coping skills, and skills dealing with stressful life events. They work to develop programs designed to help adults with a host of issues, including eating disorders, depression, and other conditions that affect daily living. They also research and study intimacy issues, and develop programs that help individuals find rewarding and suitable careers.

If you are interested in helping young adults lead fulfilling personal and vocational lives, you should consider a career in the Developmental Psychology field. In most cases, a master's degree is required, and a PhD in psychology or a related field is required for positions that involve research and teaching responsibilities.

Also, learn more about the psychology career licensing processes and what the requirements for licensure are: Psychology Career Licensure.

Developmental Psychology Schools & Colleges
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5 Programs in
Online
  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Potential students may preview a free, one-week mini course to get an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
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  • 95% alumni satisfaction rate.
  • Currently holds more than 500 professional alliances, including 19 of the top Fortune 100 companies.
  • Potential students may preview a free, one-week mini course to get an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • Courses are taught by expert faculty, with 86% of professors possessing a doctoral degree.
  • Offers credit for prior experience and learning, as well as scholarships, accelerated programs, and several other ways to help reduce tuition costs.
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
Campus
  • Phoenix Career Services™ help students find careers that match their interests & map out a personalized career plan.
  • Mentorships & networking opportunities available through Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates.
  • Flexible start date and class schedules.
  • 100+ locations and online options.
  • Offers special military rates and special advisors who have a military background.
  • Students can earn credits for applicable military training and education.
  • Phoenix Career Services™ help students find careers that match their interests & map out a personalized career plan.
  • Mentorships & networking opportunities available through Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates.
  • Flexible start date and class schedules.
  • 100+ locations and online options.
  • Offers special military rates and special advisors who have a military background.
  • Students can earn credits for applicable military training and education.
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
2 Programs in
Online
  • Ranked among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report.
  • 94% of students in the 2014-2015 academic year received some form of financial aid.
  • Student to faculty ratio is 13:1, with an average class size of 15.
  • 104 full-time faculty members, and more than 71% of them hold the highest degree in their field.
  • Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
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  • Ranked among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report.
  • 94% of students in the 2014-2015 academic year received some form of financial aid.
  • Student to faculty ratio is 13:1, with an average class size of 15.
  • 104 full-time faculty members, and more than 71% of them hold the highest degree in their field.
  • Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Show more [+]
  • Online Programs
1 Programs in
Online
  • Its Fast Track program enables qualified students to save up to 30% on tuition and graduate up to 30% faster.
  • Its online MBA program was named by the International Graduate Forum as a top 10 Online MBA Program in 2012.
  • Listed as a military friendly school by G.I. Jobs magazine in 2014.
  • Lets students watch, view, read, or hear content through its program, My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.).
  • Has additional campus locations near military bases in Colorado Springs and Denver.
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  • Its Fast Track program enables qualified students to save up to 30% on tuition and graduate up to 30% faster.
  • Its online MBA program was named by the International Graduate Forum as a top 10 Online MBA Program in 2012.
  • Listed as a military friendly school by G.I. Jobs magazine in 2014.
  • Lets students watch, view, read, or hear content through its program, My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.).
  • Has additional campus locations near military bases in Colorado Springs and Denver.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
Campus
  • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media, publishers of G.I. Jobs®.
  • Each program is designed to instill the knowledge, ethical values, and interpersonal skills of professional practice and to foster values of social responsibility.
  • Offers several flexible learning options, including a blended format that combines campus and online learning.
  • Several scholarship opportunities are available for students who qualify.
  • Features a competency-based MBA program that allows students to test out of subjects based on prior professional experience.
Show more [+]
  • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly® School by Victory Media, publishers of G.I. Jobs®.
  • Each program is designed to instill the knowledge, ethical values, and interpersonal skills of professional practice and to foster values of social responsibility.
  • Offers several flexible learning options, including a blended format that combines campus and online learning.
  • Several scholarship opportunities are available for students who qualify.
  • Features a competency-based MBA program that allows students to test out of subjects based on prior professional experience.
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Programs in
Campus
  • Ranked one of the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Offers a no-obligation, 3-week trial period where students may determine if the university is right for them before they commit to it.
  • Strives to be a student’s partner in lifelong learning; committed to helping them achieve their goals.
  • Serves students of all ages, from first-graders learning to read to professionals seeking postgraduate training.
  • Provides career-oriented diploma through master’s programs in fields such as healthcare, business, legal and paralegal services, information technology, criminal justice and design.
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  • Ranked one of the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Offers a no-obligation, 3-week trial period where students may determine if the university is right for them before they commit to it.
  • Strives to be a student’s partner in lifelong learning; committed to helping them achieve their goals.
  • Serves students of all ages, from first-graders learning to read to professionals seeking postgraduate training.
  • Provides career-oriented diploma through master’s programs in fields such as healthcare, business, legal and paralegal services, information technology, criminal justice and design.
Show more [+]
5 Programs in
Campus
  • Ranked #8 in the 2013 Best Online Undergrad Programs by U.S. News & World Report.
  • 70% graduation rate– significantly higher than the national average of 59%. 
  • Ranked #2 by U.S. News & World Report for Best Online Bachelor's Programs for Veterans. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), one of six regional accrediting associations that accredit public and private colleges and universities in the United States.  
  • Has a network of 26 campuses.

Please Call 855-816-4008 to speak to a customer representative.

Show more [+]
  • Ranked #8 in the 2013 Best Online Undergrad Programs by U.S. News & World Report.
  • 70% graduation rate– significantly higher than the national average of 59%. 
  • Ranked #2 by U.S. News & World Report for Best Online Bachelor's Programs for Veterans. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), one of six regional accrediting associations that accredit public and private colleges and universities in the United States.  
  • Has a network of 26 campuses.

Please Call 855-816-4008 to speak to a customer representative.

Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Programs in
Online
  • Ranked among the 2015 Best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Designated as a Military Friendly School every year since 2012 by Victory Media.
  • Offers credit for prior learning and experience through assessment tests.
  • Provides a short term Leadership Certification program in partnership with EQUIP®.
  • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
Show more [+]
  • Ranked among the 2015 Best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Designated as a Military Friendly School every year since 2012 by Victory Media.
  • Offers credit for prior learning and experience through assessment tests.
  • Provides a short term Leadership Certification program in partnership with EQUIP®.
  • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Online Programs
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Programs in
Campus

• Ranked among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report.
• Ranked among the 2015 Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report.
• Challenging students to live extraordinary lives of personal and professional fulfillment since 1878.
• Offers programs in business, communication, education, humanities, fine arts, health sciences, and graduate studies.
• Provides on-campus housing options and study abroad programs for students.
• Campus features several academic centers for students, including The Writing Center and the Study Place for Achievement (SPA).

Show more [+]

• Ranked among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report.
• Ranked among the 2015 Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News & World Report.
• Challenging students to live extraordinary lives of personal and professional fulfillment since 1878.
• Offers programs in business, communication, education, humanities, fine arts, health sciences, and graduate studies.
• Provides on-campus housing options and study abroad programs for students.
• Campus features several academic centers for students, including The Writing Center and the Study Place for Achievement (SPA).

Show more [+]
  • Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
2 Programs in
Online
  • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Ranked 37th among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Stands as the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation with 100,000+ students.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • Has a student-faculty ratio of 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
Show more [+]
  • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Ranked 37th among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
  • Stands as the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation with 100,000+ students.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • Has a student-faculty ratio of 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
Show more [+]
  • Accredited
  • Online Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits