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Life’s stages are changing — we need new terms and new ideas to describe how adults develop and grow

What image comes to mind when you think of someone in their twenties?

Can you imagine an adult stressed by the weight of so many new responsibilities in family and work roles?

Or do you imagine a person full of hope and undeveloped potential, still more a child than an adult, who struggles to define life and makes little or nothing, but manages to find joy sometimes nonetheless? Perhaps your audio clip here is "22" radiant Taylor Swift : "We're happy, free, confused and lonely all at once. It's so miserable and charming."

What if you think of someone in the 60s Who is his age?

Can you imagine a person – or perhaps a happy couple – who enjoys life, lives well, and is still active, but is now freer than before with daily work and family duties?

Or do you see a person who has given his life to bear burdens, his health has diminished, and is now heading towards a certain destination? Here the soundtrack might be the Beatles' bad song " When I Turn 64 : "Do You Still Need Me? Do You Still Feed Me? When I Turn 64?"

The whole arc of adult evolution has changed Over the past several decades, in ways our psychological theories still catch on. In the twenty-first century, does it still make sense to refer to "adulthood", "middle age" and "late adulthood", as psychologists have long been doing? If not, what are the more accurate concepts?

I have devoted most of my career as a developmental psychologist to answering these questions. My theory about emerging adulthood acknowledges that the lives of younger adults have changed dramatically since the 1960s. As the father of 22-year-old twins, I am fully aware of their journey through a new life phase that I have been searching for and writing about for so long. Being 64, I also turn my attention to how the Sixties have changed what they were before.

An Ever Longer Journey to Adulthood

In my research over the past two decades, I have found that people between the ages of 19 and 29 are neither fully adults nor in "extended adolescence" – as they are at this time Life was seen throughout the twentieth century. In the early twenty-first century, these years were gradually and often intermittently making their way toward a more established adulthood .

I invited scholars from all over the world to contribute to a special edition of American Psychologist, one of the most important journals in psychology, on the topic “Rethinking Adult Development: New Ideas for the New Times.” Reimagining what adult development looks like now and where it might be headed.

Most of the authors were developmental psychologists. About half were Americans and the other half European, although Shinobu Kitayama and colleagues provided a refreshingly different Asian cultural perspective.

Here are some highlights:

– Ages 30 to 45 are now the "peak hour of life". Today people around the world are waiting later than ever to get married and have children, and most of them only have one or two. But then couples usually face the double challenge of trying to move forward in their careers while also dealing with the intense responsibilities of looking after young children. Women have much greater opportunities in education and employment than they did in 1960, which is welcome but also presents new challenges and pressures.

in their contribution to the special issue, Claire Mehta and colleagues propose the term 'established adulthood' to characterize these years as the most intense and demanding years of adult life, characterized by the 'career crisis' , when commitments are high in both work and family roles. Adults reach their peak career gains and status in their late forties and fifties. But life can get complicated, as new responsibilities may arise with grandchildren and elderly parents who need more help.

In general, as Frank Inforna and colleagues detail in their contribution, mental health decline in middle age. Reports of depression and anxiety are increasing. Seeking professional help for mental health issues reaches a lifelong climax. and technological economy. This has led to an epidemic of “deaths of despair” from suicide or overdoses of opiates or alcohol. Although life after the age of 60 has traditionally been considered a period of inevitable decline, its reality has become very different – and better – in recent decades.

Life expectancy at birth is now higher than it has ever been, worldwide, and adults are getting smarter and healthier for longer than ever. Dennis Gerstorf and colleagues show how these positive trends have occurred in many countries over the past century due to improvements in education, nutrition, and health care.

[ Did you like what you read? do you want more? and physical exercise practices. One of the exciting recent findings highlighted in Ursula Studinger's article is that regular exercise promotes mental health as well as physical well-being, helping to maintain mental sharpness and prevent Alzheimer's disease. Later in life, as we gain new freedom to choose what kind of work we do – or stop working entirely and spend more time with the people we care about most. According to Philip Ackerman and Ruth Kanfer more people are working in the late 1960s and early 1970s than ever before, but they have more freedom to choose how to do it, whether it's part-time, starting a business or trying something as long as they wanted to do.

The New Arc of Adulthood Requires New Concepts and Ideas

Over the decades of writing about emerging adulthood, I have learned that how people think about stages of human development matters. Thinking shapes expectations and how experiences are interpreted. Many compelling and exciting new findings about adult development point to the importance of rethinking previous theories, assumptions, and stereotypes about the course of adult life.

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