Adulthood provides less developmental stages than youth, but each stage is vast in years and experiences. Each person will experience adulthood differently based on their choices, their lifestyle, their beliefs, and their customs. Despite this, being both physically and mentally well remains a constant for all adults.

Link to sections: Early Adulthood | Middle Age | Golden Years

Early Adulthood (20 – 30)

early-adulthood Early adults are still often trying to find “their place” in the world. Young adults may have decided on a career path and have begun their lives at the bottom of the corporate ladder. It is common for young adults to also switch career paths several times before finding the path that feels right. It can be grueling during this stage as the reality of being an independent adult hits. This is also the prime time to begin a family of one’s own, with the average age for marriage being between ages 27-29, with the average age of new mothers being 26 years old.

Biophysical: The body has generally finished growing at this point, with most men and women reaching their adult height by age 21. Muscles and fat continues to grow, and many young adults typically gain 10 – 15 lbs during this time. Adults may find themselves unable to eat the foods they could as teenagers, or finding that they fall out of shape quicker. Sleep evens out more during this stage as adults typically only need 7 to 9 hours of sleep (as opposed to 8 to 10 hours for teens). The frontal lobes have finally finished growing around age 25, meaning early adults have a better sense of impulse control.

Psychological: The stress of finally making it to adulthood yet not truly knowing where one fits in reaches a peak at this stage. There can be a lot of pressure to work in a job that is unsatisfying to make ends meet, while also igniting a nagging sense of “is this what I’m meant to do for the rest of my life?”

Social: Relationships with friends and romantic relationships continue to be very important. Romantic relationships begin to take priority as the average age of marriage is between 27-29. Family also becomes increasingly important during this stage once again. Friendships may suffer between work, romantic relationships, and family obligations. The potential addition of children continues to add complexity to relationships.

Spiritual: Young adults still have a lot to look forward to in the future. They may be looking at climbing the corporate ladder, beginning a family, or continuing their education. Goals and dreams will become more concrete, with the enthusiasm and the energy to strive forward

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Middle Age


Middle adulthood provides entirely new challenges yet again. Oftentimes by this stage, adults have become pretty secure in their career paths, no longer working at the “bottom of the ladder” but rather working up to better positions. There is more financial security in this stage, however many adults find themselves part of the “sandwich generation” during this time – meaning they are sandwiched between providing for the needs of their growing children and the needs of their elderly parents.

Biophysical: Physical fitness generally begins to slow down after age 25. Changes such as thinning or graying hair, the need for glasses, wrinkles, and hearing loss can all crop up during this time. Women will typically experience menopause between 42 – 51.

Psychological: The effects of aging are hard to ignore. This is when the infamous mid-life crisis may occur, causing many middle adults to question what they have accomplished in their lives. On the other hand, adults usually have developed good coping skills by this point, and are better able to handle the stresses of life.

Social: Family is the most important role during this stage. Friendships are still important, and most friendships are developed at work or through the community.

Spiritual: Many dreams and aspirations are sifted during this phase. A middle adult may now understand what dreams are no longer able to be accomplished – however, they may look at everything that have already accomplished with great pride. There are still many years to come, and retirement is just around the corner.

More information on Middle Adulthood Development

Signs of a Problem

Common symptoms of adult mental health problems:

  • Changes in grades or work ethic
  • Suddenly gaining or losing weight
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, or like a burden
  • Lashing out at others , having a short fuse (especially true for men
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Excessive worry
  • Acting recklessly
  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Delusions or Hallucinations
  • Confusion, not being able to concentrate, lack of focus

Golden Years (50 – 65)

golden-years The golden years usually provide some of the best financial security, as adults are still working (probably in a well-established career at a high level job), have had years to build a savings and retirement accounts, and may be close to paying off big expenses such as mortgages. Children may be out of the house by this time, leaving adults in the golden years to experience the “empty nest”. Additionally adults may find themselves becoming grandparents during this phase.

Biophysical: Wrinkles, gray hair, diminished eyesight and hearing, and even diminished taste and smell senses for some. Major organs and bodily functions begin to slow down such as the cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive. In most cases, aging alone will not cause organ failure, but rather unhealthy choices made earlier in life such as drinking, smoking, and bad diet.

Psychological: Memory generally continues to slow, although long-term memory seems to be less impacted. Brain illnesses such as dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s often become a concern late in this stage and moving into the elderly.

Social: While older adults are approaching retirement age, they may find themselves reaching out to the community more than before. Older adults are likely to be empty nesters by this point and will often “fill in” the gaps with volunteering, church groups, or community groups.

Spiritual: Preparedness for retirement can be a source of comfort or a source of strength. Ideally, older adults will be able to enter into retirement with enough funds to live life comfortably, being able to do and see the things they want to do/see.

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