Human Development in Adulthood


Change is a natural state for each period of the existence of any human being and adulthood is not an exception. People constantly evolve throughout their lives, from the time of conception to death. During the period of adulthood, an individual goes through numerous milestones from the perspectives of biosocial, cognitive, and psychological development. When growing older, people gain experience and acquire new traits, such as self-confidence, and emotional stability, which help them to adapt to life in the community. Psychologists all over the world attempt to find explanations for all the changes a person experiences throughout life, trying to understand their reasons. Most of these processes are natural and normal, while others present challenges on their path of development.

Biosocial Development in Adulthood

The Experience of Aging

People are always afraid of aging and often claim they feel approximately ten years younger. According to the statistics, adults from 26 to 60 are the most socially active (Berger, 2017). However, there is a big role of genetics and environment in the process of aging as they define comorbid diseases, happening due to various changes in the human organism. As time goes by, a person may develop such health conditions as blood pressure problems, which may lead to hypertension or strokes, and breathing challenges due to the lack of oxygen.

The brain of an aging person may also alter and lose a part of its functions due to such factors as drug abuse, poor circulation, viruses, or an inherited gene, responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, the appearance of individual changes with time, influencing the state of skin and hair. However, a healthy diet and sports may postpone these signs and help a person to stay in a good shape for a longer period. Finally, senses, especially vision and hearing, become less acute as the person grows older.

The reproductive system of people is also changing as they age. This process is influenced by genes, which define the time of menopause for women. It is the period when female hormones stop being active and the organism undergoes a massive alteration of all the systems. The process often requires the usage of specific medications to cope with aging signs and help women live a normal life. There are also numerous debates about whether males have a similar problem. Certain experts claim that men experience the lowering of the levels of testosterone, which leads to a decrease in sexual activity, and call it “andropause”, while others argue that the phenomenon is psychological and not physiological (Berger, 2017). From this perspective, aging impacts all the parts and systems of the human body leading to numerous potential health issues.

Habits in Adulthood

People tend to acquire many good and bad habits as they grow older. The style of life defines the aging processes happening in the organism. One of the best habits a person may have is regular physical exercise as staying active usually means being healthy. Movement helps to prevent serious illnesses by reducing blood pressure, strengthening the heart and lungs, and promoting digestion. Moreover, exercises allow reducing the chances of such conditions as depression, diabetes, osteoporosis, strokes, arthritis, and several types of cancer (Berger, 2017).

A healthy diet is another good habit as nutrition is important at every stage of development because it allows receiving microelements and vitamins necessary for a good performance of the organism. Moreover, correct eating habits help to evade the problem of obesity, which is today considered to be one of the biggest global issues. Among the factors with a bad influence on the human body are medications as they interfere with the natural processes. It especially concerns illegal drugs, which have the most negative influence on the organism, as well as smoking and alcohol abuse. From this perspective, habits play a crucial role in people’s lives.

Cognitive Development in Adulthood

Age and Intelligence

There are multiple debates about the changes in intelligence when a person grows older. Many experts claim that after an individual is 20 years, their abilities remain the same, while others state they decrease with time. Multiple studies of IQ showed that younger adults outscored older ones (Berger, 2017). However, later it was found that everything depends on the initial development of a person and it is wrong to compare those with higher education and those who studied only at school.

Moreover, people acquire new knowledge and their IQ level may increase as time goes on. In addition, famous research, the Seattle Longitudinal Study, which began in 1956 and is repeated every seven years, showed that there is a gender difference in intelligence (Berger, 2017). According to it, men are better with numbers, while women show the best results in verbal skills. It also explained that many abilities, including vocabulary and IQ levels, increase with time.

The intelligence of a person may also be classified according to a specific typology. It was developed by Robert Sternberg and includes analytic, creative, and practical types (Berger, 2017). The first class includes all mental processes, necessary for efficient learning, such as remembering and thinking, focusing attention, information processing, and logical skills. Creative intelligence implies flexibility and innovation, giving importance to the imagination. Practical intelligence means skills, required for everyday problem solving, which is the most essential type for a person in adulthood. From this perspective, intelligence is a complex notion, which varies depending on the experience of an individual.

Age and Experience

As people grow older, they typically focus on those aspects of their lives, that they consider the most important. Individuals choose a specialization and develop their skills in this area, gaining experience and developing their cognition in the chosen sphere. Those abilities, which are not used for a long time, may fade in the process of aging. However, “practice may counteract other effects of aging” as cognitive processes are developing when people gain new experiences (Berger, 2017, p. 1123). With time, many processes become intuitive or automatic as they require no thought. Due to this phenomenon, adult workers typically show a better performance than younger generations, which lack experience. This way, the background of the person and their practice in the area they chose for their specialization, define their cognitive skills and may compensate for many side effects of aging.

Psychological Development in Adulthood

Theories of Personality Development in Adulthood

Each individual has their own unique temperament when they are born. However, during adulthood, many traits are changing as the person adapts to life in society. The process of evolution is continuous throughout the whole life, affecting individuality. There are several theories, attempting to explain this phenomenon from a psychological point of view. The first conception was introduced by Erik Erikson, who based his assumptions on the sociocultural aspect of human psychosocial development (Berger, 2017). He highlights four stages of evolution, which happen after puberty:

  • identity versus role confusion, implying that the search for identity may last for the entire life and may be involved in a conflict with the environment;
  • intimacy versus isolation, meaning that people require time devoted to one another and isolation is critical in times of death or divorce;
  • generativity versus stagnation, signaling a need to take care of the next generations, either by raising children or by teaching and mentoring them;
  • integrity versus despair, implying that the person’s journey through life should correlate with the historical and cultural purposes of the society (Berger, 2017).

Another theory is built on the basis of the humanism concept, assuming that all the people are noble and have big potential. Such an approach was offered by numerous scientists including Abraham Maslow, who highlighted five requirements of humans: physiological, including basic needs, such as food and shelter, safe and security, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization (Berger, 2017). The theory emphasizes it is relevant to every age, regardless of gender, race, and other factors. All the existing conceptions provide different views on the psychological development of a person during adulthood, although, they are united by their statement of the human primary needs, which are love, affiliation, and work.

Ways for Healthy Adult Development

It is natural for humans to search for a partner to escape from the loneliness. The feeling of belonging is one of the most basic needs from the point of view of psychological development. It concerns many aspects of life, including marriage and romantic relationships, friendship, and family bonds. All adults require being socially active and friends and family are one of the key components of a good life. It is proven that the family background is critical from this perspective as positive relationships with parents guarantee future success in creating new bonds and raising children. However, such events as breakups and divorces have a harmful impact on adults as well as children and their future lives. Grown-ups need other people to rely on and depend on to feel more secure and become successful.

Healthy adult development also requires generativity, success, achievement, and esteem. To satisfy these psychosocial needs, there are multiple social roles, which an adult can perform, including the ones of parents, spouses, grandparents, and others permitted to provide care. An important role is also played by work as it can help people develop and use their skills, aid others, and make a contribution to the community. Unemployment is destructive to the mental and physical health of a grown-up individual. From this perspective, the development of people during adulthood is characterized by their social functions, which help them to satisfy their needs and basic instincts.


Adulthood is a period of human evolution, which is characterized by multiple changes from the perspectives of physical, cognitive, and psychological development. During this time, there are biological processes in the body, which may lead to the appearance of serious medical conditions in case an individual does not take precautionary measures, such as regular physical exercise and a healthy diet. The brain of people also undergoes certain alterations as time goes by, however, it depends on the level of education, cognitive skills, and genetic factors of each individual. From a psychological point of view, there are also continuous changes as the person acquires new traits and loses some of the qualities, which were inborn when adapting to life in the community. The experiences of an individual play a critical role in the development of their character in adulthood.


Berger, K. S. (2017). The developing person through the life span (10th ed.). Worth Publishers.

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