Physical, Psychological and Emotional Changes in Adults

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  1. 0:07 Adult Human Development
  2. 0:47 Physical Development
  3. 3:36 Psychological & Emotional Development
  4. 7:20 Lesson Summary
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Taught by

Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

As an adult you establish a unique identity, reach the proverbial midlife crisis, and eventually succumb to old age. In this lesson, learn about the physical, psychological, and emotional changes that take place along this journey.

Adult Human Development

When you think of human development, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Most likely the first image you have is of a teenager going through the stages of puberty. This is because a great deal of attention is usually placed on this period in regard to physical development. But what happens when this stage is over? Do adults develop physically as well? What about psychological and emotional changes?

Life would be pretty boring if we didn't continue to develop emotionally and psychologically. As adults, we continue to learn and gain experiences that change us. We also continue to develop physically, as well, even though some of these physical changes may eventually progress in a negative manner.

Physical Development

First, let's look at the physical changes that take place during adulthood. Because of the dramatic physical developments that take place earlier, it may seem that less attention is placed on physical development in the adult years. Let's find out if this assumption is true as we look at three main stages to physical development in adulthood: early adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood.

Early adulthood takes place roughly between the ages of 20 to 35. In early adulthood, a person may continue to add a bit of height and weight. Hormonal changes also continue to occur, but the effects are less pronounced than they were during adolescence. In terms of physical development, this period is the least dramatic.

Middle adulthood takes place roughly between the ages of 35 and 65. In middle adulthood, we may start to see more noticeable changes again. Because we start to see and feel the physical changes in our bodies, we may begin to think about our physical development once more. One of the most noticeable changes is the loss of skin elasticity. Have you noticed how many different anti-aging creams there are available? Fine lines and wrinkles that begin to develop due to the loss of skin elasticity have definitely gotten some attention!

Have you heard of any new diet supplements that help you lose weight? The weight gain associated with getting older has gained some attention as well. A person will also start to lose strength and flexibility. Thinning of the hair can also occur, and the hair that hasn't thinned may start to turn gray. In middle adulthood, women will also go through a process called menopause and lose the ability to reproduce.

At some time around the age of 65, we enter the world of late adulthood. Yes, we will gain access to senior discounts, but the physical changes taking place in our bodies is a less positive result! More profound negative effects of aging will begin to take its toll on our bodies. This is the final stage of physical change. Those wrinkles will become more noticeable and you may start to develop brown age spots on your skin. Your reaction time begins to slow, and even if you have not needed glasses in the past, your deteriorating eyesight will most likely cause you to need them now.

There are two main physical concerns associated with adult physical development that may become evident in late adulthood. First is the loss of bone mass and second is loss of cognitive function. Other physical concerns may also occur, such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and malnutrition due to an inability to absorb vitamins and nutrients. While age related changes cannot entirely be stopped, the symptoms can often be managed with proper diet, exercise, and medical care.

Psychological and Emotional Development

Now that you have had an overview of the physical changes associated with adulthood, let's look at the emotional and psychological changes that take place. In early adulthood, these changes are going to be more noticeable than the physical ones. This is an important stage in adult emotional and psychological development, and we strive to find our place in the world. During this time, important life decisions are made about career and living arrangements. As we find our way in the world and gain our independence, our independent choices and resulting emotional consequences can have a profound impact our view of who we are.

One of the largest aspects of this period of development is the importance that is placed on relationship formation in early adulthood. Developing our own intimate relationships can be challenging, and we have to learn to understand our new independent identities in order for these relationships to fully develop. Marriage and family formation typically occurs during early adulthood. Our emotional and psychological well-being is often tied to how successful we are at forming these relationships.

As an example, let's imagine the difference in the emotional and psychological state of the following three scenarios:

  • Bob is 27 years old and focused on the development of his career. He's highly successful at his job and has a few close friends. However, he has little time for romantic relationships.
  • Shirley is 33 years old and has two young children. She married her college sweetheart, but unfortunately, they were unable to make the marriage work. She still has a friendly relationship with her ex-husband, who is supportive of his children.
  • Joe is 30 years old and married to his high school sweetheart. They have one 11 year old son. He began working just after high school to support his family. Joe now spends his evenings attending community college.

Each of you will have a different image of these individuals. But you will also have a unique view of how you see each individual's emotional and psychological state as well. You may have a positive or negative image of any of the previous examples. In the real world, the emotional and psychological changes that occur in early adulthood are similar to the way you formed an opinion of each different scenario.

Now that we are leaving early adulthood, it is time to face that midlife crisis! During middle adulthood, we go through a whole other set of stressors. We have to face our lot in life, and our perception of who we have become.

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