Introduction to transition to adulthood

The transition to adulthood is a complex process in which youth who have been dependent on parents throughout childhood, start taking definitive steps to achieve measures of financial, residential, and emotional independence, and to take on more adult roles as citizen, spouse, parent, and worker.

This transition can be a period of growth and accomplishment.

The transition to adulthood can take place in different orders and over a wide range of ages from the teens through the mid- to late 20s and beyond, and most youth successfully make these transitions. However, many youth experience setbacks early on by becoming parents too soon, dropping out of school, failing to find work, or getting in trouble with the legal system. These experiences not only make the transition to adulthood more difficult, but can also have long-lasting effects by compromising a youth’s potential to provide for himself or herself in adulthood, and by increasing the risk that a youth’s own offspring will experience the same negative outcomes.

5.1 Psychological well-being

Ryff(1989) defined that the following six factors can be considered as key component that make up the definition of psychological well-being.

Six dimensions of psychological well-being
1. Self-acceptance - positive evaluations of oneself

2. Positive interpersonal relations - close, warm relationships with others

3. Autonomy - self-determination

4. Environmental mastery - sense of effectiveness in mastering circumstances and challenges

5. Purpose in life - a sense of meaning that gives one’s life a sense of direction and purpose

6. Personal growth - improvement and growth.


High scorer: possesses a positive attitude toward the self; acknowledges and accepts multiple aspects of self, including good and bad qualities; feels positive about the past.   
Low scorer: feels dissatisfied with self; is disappointed with what has occurred in past life; is troubled about certain qualities; wishes to be different than what he or she is.   

Positive Relations with Others

High scorer: has warm, satisfying, trusting relationships with others; is concerned about the welfare of others; capable of strong empathy, affection, and intimacy; understands give-and-take of human relationships.    

Low scorer: has few close, trusting relationships with others; finds it difficult to be warm, open, and concerned about others; is isolated and frustrated in interpersonal relationships; is not willing to make compromises; sustain important ties with others. 


High scorer: is self-determining; is able to resist social pressures to think and act in certain ways; regulates behavior from within; evaluates self by personal standards.    

Low scorer: is concerned about the expectations and evaluations of others; relies on judgments of others to make important decisions; conforms to social pressures to think and act in certain ways. 

Environmental Mastery

High scorer: has a sense of mastery and competence in managing the environment; controls complex array of external activities; makes effective use of surrounding opportunities; is able to choose or create contexts suitable to personal needs and values. 

Low scorer: has difficulty managing everyday affairs; feels unable to change or improve surrounding context; is unaware of surrounding opportunities; lacks sense of control over external world. 

Purpose in Life

High scorer: has goals in life and a sense of directedness; feels there is meaning to present and past life; holds beliefs that give life purpose; has aims and objectives for living.   

Low scorer: lacks a sense of meaning in life; has few goals or aims; lacks a sense of direction; does not see purpose in the past; has no outlooks or beliefs that give life meaning. 

Personal Growth

High scorer: has a feeling of continued development; sees self as growing and expanding; is open to new experiences; has sense of realizing his or her potential; sees improvement in self and behavior over time; is changing in ways that reflect more self-knowledge and effectiveness.    

Low scorer: has a sense of personal stagnation; lacks sense of improvement or expansion over time; feels bored and uninterested with life; feels unable to develop new attitudes or behaviors. 

In terms of the adolescents’ psychological well-being, the quality of family relationships, a positive evaluation of school environment, a satisfactory peer group life, and their locus of control orientation all had a positive influence on their psychological well-being.

The mental health

Mental health aspect of well-being is a matter of concern at any age. Overall, two elements stand out in any consideration of mental health.

 First, from a social perspective mental health involves people's ability to functioning effectively in their social roles and to carry out the requirements of group living.

 Second, from a psychologist perspective, Live, mental health involves a subjective sense mental wellbeing, happiness, contentment, and satisfaction. Mental health requires that people continually change and adapt life experiences. People who cannot find a Comfortable fit between themselves and the world can Experience anxiety, stress, or depression.

Cognitive development changes during transition

By the end of adolescence, most people are capable of the levels of reasoning that we would expect for normal functioning in adult society. Although there are wide individual differences in attainment, most young adults are able to deal with cognitive tasks in a more abstract way than before, and to attain solutions to problems by comparing possible explanations.

Results of longitudinal research studies find that overall IQ tends to rise until the mid-fifties and then gradually declines. Psychologists distinguish between fluid intelligence (the ability to make original adaptations in novel situations) and crystallized intelligence (the ability to reuse earlier adaptations on later occasions). Midlife adults can maximize their cognitive abilities by practicing them regularly over time.


      Early Adulthood (Ages 20–40)

      Middle Adulthood (Ages 40–65)


INTRODUCTIUON TO Early Adulthood (Ages 20–40)

Early adulthood - begins in late teens/early 20s and lasts through the 30s

As we reach early adulthood, our physical maturation is complete, although our height and weight may increase slightly. In early adulthood, our physical abilities are at their peak, As an individual progresses through adulthood, a variety of factors can affect the aging process.

The aging process, although not overt, begins during early adulthood. Around the age of 30, many changes begin to occur in different parts of the body. For example, the lens of the eye starts to stiffen and thicken, resulting in changes in vision (usually affecting the ability to focus on close objects).

Early adulthood is a time of:

      establishing personal and economic independence

      developing a career

      selecting a mate

      learning to live with someone in an intimate way

      starting a family

      rearing children

Cognitive Development in Early Adulthood

Jean Piaget (1952) - in each stage of cognitive development, people think in a qualitatively different way

Piaget believed that the formal operational stage (ages 11 to 15) is the highest stage of thinking at this stage.

Adults gain knowledge, but ways of thinking are the same as those of adolescents.

Some researchers disagree with Piaget and believe that thinking in early adulthood becomes more realistic and pragmatic.

      Post-formal thought  - thought that is

      reflective, relativistic, and contextual



      open to emotions and subjective

INTRODUCTION TO Middle Adulthood (Ages 40–65)

During middle adulthood, the aging process becomes more apparent. Around the age of 60, the eyes lose their ability to adjust to objects at varying distances, known as presbyopia. Most people between the ages of 40 and 60 will need some form of corrective lenses for vision deficits. Middle-aged adults are also at higher risk than younger adults for certain eye problems, such as glaucoma. Hearing also further. Skin continues to dry out and is prone to more wrinkling, particularly on the sensitive face area. Age spots and blood vessels become more apparent as the skin continues to dry and get thinner. The muscle-to-fat ratio for both men and women also changes throughout middle adulthood, with an accumulation of fat in the stomach area.

Women experience a gradual decline in fertility as they approach the onset of menopause—the end of the menstrual cycle—around 50 years old. This process involves hormonal changes and may last anywhere from six months to five years. Because of the shifting hormone levels, women going through menopause often experience a range of other symptoms, such as anxiety, poor memory, inability to concentrate, depressive mood, irritability, mood swings, and less interest in sexual activity.

Cognitive Development in Middle Adulthood

Crystallized intelligence (individual’s accumulated information and verbal skills) increases in middle adulthood

Fluid intelligence (one’s ability to reason abstractly) begins to decline in middle adulthood

Schaie (1996) found that two intellectual abilities (numerical ability and perceptual speed) declined in middle age

Schaie found that four intellectual abilities (vocabulary, verbal memory, inductive reasoning, and spatial orientation) improved after early adulthood

Cognitive development changes:-

In terms of primary mental abilities, Schaie’s (1996) data depict mid-life as a relatively stable period .In fact, on most measures, middle-aged adults perform as well as or slightly better than younger adults. Schaie did find a decline in numeric skill, and other researchers have obtained evidence of a modest decrease in reaction time (Wielgos & Cunningham, 1999) and a reduction in conscious processing efficiency (Titov & Knight, 1997) during this period. However, in terms of psychometric measures of intellectual functioning, middle aged people perform well overall.



·        Crystallized Intelligence: an individual’s accumulated information and verbal skills. Continues to increase in middle adulthood

·        Fluid Intelligence: the ability to reason abstractly. May begin to decline in middle adulthood


Late adulthood - period that begins in the 60s and lasts until death

Late adulthood is the time of:

      adjusting to retirement

      decreasing strength and health

      new social roles

      reviewing one’s life

 Cognitive development changes

If we compare the performance of the 67-year-olds with the 25-year-olds, it turns out that they are very similar on three of the measures, and only slightly poorer on two of them. On average, people in their mid-60s are performing on these tests at roughly the same level as those in their mid-20s. Schaie’s and other research (Powell, 1994; Rabbitt et al., 2001) also shows that while there is variation between age groups on some measures of intellectual performance, there is also great variation within groups – and this variation within groups increases with age.

Older people do tend to perform less well than younger adults on tasks dependent upon reaction time and processing speed .Some researchers have also reported that older adults perform less well on Piagetian-type tasks measuring formal operations (Denney, 1984). But these differences do not necessarily support the conclusion that intellectual capacity in the elderly is pervasively inadequate. Intelligent behavior in everyday life typically involves several capacities, and people may be able to compensate for reductions

Social and emotional development during late adulthood

Theorists such as Erikson (1997) and Levinson (1978) regarded late adulthood as another major stage of adult development. Erikson and Erikson again saw the individual as facing a conflict – this time between integrity and despair. They maintained that as people realize they are coming towards the end of their life, they reminisce about their past and review how they feel about themselves. Have I met life’s challenges successfully/achieved goals that I value/contributed to the wellbeing of those I care about? Or have I failed to realize my potential/wasted time in pointless work or futile relationships/been a burden to others? Erikson and Erikson believed that individuals who arrive at a predominantly positive view (i.e. regarding their life as integrated and successful) experience a more contented late adulthood.

Levinson saw the period from approximately 60 to 65 as the late adult transition, when the individual has to deal with intrinsic changes in capacity and performance, as well as changes in relations with others and in society’s expectations. One of the key aspects of many people’s adult life – their job – is now approaching its end, or has already concluded. All of these changes pose challenges

Mental Health and Depression during adulthood

Most older adults adapt well to the changes and losses they are confronted with in late adulthood and have good mental health-yet those who live with chronic disease or pain are likely to experience mental-health problems. In 2006, for adults 65 and older, about 12 percent of women and 5 percent of men were prescribed antidepressants (National Institute of Mental Health, 2008). However, a small percentage of elderly people develop more serious depressive disorders or mental illness if not treated. Symptoms might include loss of energy, fatigue or sleep disorders, loss of appetite, loss of interest in normal activities, or loss of interest in sexual activity. Other risk factors include diagnosis of health problems, cognitive dysfunction, stcained interpersonal relations, stressful life events, and inheritance of depression.


Decline in Cognitive Functioning

      Until recently, most everyone, including physicians, accepted the view that senility is natural for people living longer than the Biblical three score and ten years, or age 70. Senility is typically characterized by progressive mental deterioration, memory loss, and disorientation regarding time and place. Irritability, confusion, inability to use complete sentences, and other marked personality changes usually accompany the intellectual decline. When those affected no longer remember a spouse or children, terror can set in, with screams, because a loved one becomes a total stranger (Cohen et al., 1993)

      Transition and adaptation are central features in middle adulthood, perhaps more prominently in other phases of life. Midlife is a time of looking back and at the same time looking forward. Some of the emotional-social changes of middle age are associated with the family life cycle. Many, parents at midlife today enter the "empty nest" period of life, yet some couples at life are just beginning their families and are raising young children. Others are caring for both growing children or grandchildren and elderly parents, and we refer these middle-age adults as the "sandwich generation" (Kohli & Kunemund, 2005).

      Problem with the term “transition to adulthood” is that it implies that the period between adolescence and young adulthood is brief, linking two longer and more notable periods of life, hence better referred to as a “transition” than as a period of life in its own right. This may have been the case 30 or 40 years ago, when most people in industrialized societies finished school, married, and had their first child by their very early twenties. However, today, with school extending longer and longer for more and more people and with the median ages of marriage and parenthood now in the late twenties, referring to the years between adolescence and full adulthood as simply the “transition to adulthood” no longer makes sense.


5.2 Identity Formation and Self-Concept

According to Parker.J.Palmer :

  “Identity is often described as finite and consisting of separate and distinct parts (family,culture,personal,professional,etc)”

Identity Formation

Development of distinct personality of an individual regarded as a personal continuity in a particular stage of life in which individual characteristics are possessed and by which a person is recognized.

It includes:

1.     Sense of continuity

2.     Sense of uniqueness

3.     Sense of affiliation

Erickson: identity v/s role confusion

The “identity and role confusion” stage consist of adolescents trying to figure out who they are in order to form a basic identity that they will build on throughout their life, especially concerning social and occupational identities.


Self-concept is an individual’s perception of self and is what helps make each individual unique.

Positive and negative self-assessments in the physical, emotional, intellectual, and functional dimensions change over time.

Self-concept affects the ability to function and greatly influences health status.

Dimensions of Self-Concept

Self-knowledge — “Who am I?”

Global self: is the term used to describe the composite of all basic facts, qualities, traits, images and feelings one holds about oneself.

§  It includes:

1.     Basic facts: sex, age, race, occupation, cultural background, sexual orientation

2.     Person’s position with social groups

3.     Qualities or traits that describe typical behaviours, feelings, moods and other characteristics (generous, hot-headed , ambitious, intelligent, sexy

Self-expectation — “Who or what do I want to be?”

Expectations for self flow from various sources. The ideal self constitutes the self one want to be. Self expectations develop unconsciously early in childhood and are based on image of role models such as parents.

§  Social self – How person perceived by others?

§  Self-evaluation — “How well do I like myself?”

Self esteem is the evaluative and affective component of self concept

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs includes self esteem. He says all human need to feel respected which involves self esteem and self respect.

Components of Self-Concept                                          

§  Identity       

A sense of personal identity is what sets one person apart as a unique individual.

Identity includes a person’s name, gender, ethnic identity, family status, occupation, and roles.

One’s personal identity begins to develop during childhood and is constantly reinforced and modified throughout life.                                             

§  Body image

Body image is an attitude about one’s physical attributes and characteristics, appearance, and performance.

Body image is dynamic because any change in body structure or function, including the normal changes of growth and development, can affect it.

§  Self-esteem

Self-esteem is the judgment of personal performance compared with the self-ideal.

Self-esteem is derived from a sense of giving and receiving love, and being respected by others.

·        Role performance

Role refers to a set of expected behaviors determined by familial, cultural, and social norms.

The level of self-esteem is dependent upon the self-perception of adequate role performance in these various social roles.



Formation of Self-Concept

1.     Infant learns physical self different from environment.

2.     If basic needs are met, child has positive feelings of self.

3.     Child internalizes others people’s attitudes toward self.

4.     Child or adult internalizes standards of society.

Factors Affecting Self-Concept

§  Altered Health Status

§  Experience

§  Developmental considerations

§  Culture

§  Internal and external resources

§  History of success and failure

§  Crisis or life stressors

§  Aging, illness, or trauma


5.3 Emerging roles and responsibilities

The transition to adulthood is marked by new roles and responsibilities in such interrelated domains as education, employment, and family formation.

During the transition from adolescence to adulthood, increasing maturity comes with expectations that one will take responsibility for oneself, make independent decisions, and become self-sufficient. In this period, young people contend with multiple opportunities and challenges that can have important implications over the life course. Individual developmental pathways are determined by decisions regarding education, employment, residential arrangements, marriage, and parenthood. Important changes in social roles and responsibilities can generate stress and test an individual’s capacity for adaptation, but these changes also present opportunities to overcome earlier difficulties and to begin on a new developmental trajectory.

In traditional cultures the timing of marriage is often determined by family interests and cultural expectations, but as young people gain more control over their resources they are more able to choose the timing of their own life transitions (Arnett, 1998). Emerging adults in industrialized or post-industrial countries are more likely to have control over their own resources and delay the timing of marriage (Arnett, 2000a). Although it is important to note that there are some traditional cultures where the transition into marriage and parenthood is delayed and a period of emerging adulthood exists (Arnett, 1998). This delay in marriage has been accompanied by a delay in other adult roles such as parenthood and entrance into a career; allowing emerging adults a period of freedom to explore and try out new ways of living before they settle into such long term commitments (Arnett, 2006a). Instead of outward events marking adulthood, emerging adults emphasize the internal character qualities needed to take on adult roles such as accepting responsibility for self, being able to make decisions independently, becoming less self oriented, and gaining financial independence.



5.4 Life skills and independent living

In addition to self-advocacy skills, teaching your child skills that will foster his or her independence on the journey to adulthood is also of utmost importance.

      Definition: “ Living on ones own being employed or having an active social life.”

Areas of Independent Living

      Home Management

      Health and safety

      Community services

      Money management

      Socialization skills



      Clothing management


      Self determination

Why it is important?

      Prepare students for future

      Essentially, self-care and personal management

      Interacting with their environment

      students to live safely and independently as adults


5.5 Career choices

Career selection is one of many important choices students will make in determining future plans. This decision will impact them throughout their lives. The essence of who the student is will revolve around what the student wants to do with their life-long work. Basavage (1996, p.1) in her thesis asked, “What is it that influences children one way or another?” Over the school’s front door at Rindge School of Technical Arts is the saying, “Work is one of our greatest blessings. Everyone should have an honest occupation” (Rosenstock& Steinberg, cited in O’Brien, 1996, p. 3). Every student carries the unique history of their past and this determines how they view the world. That history created, in part by the student’s environment, personality, and opportunity, will determine how students make career choices. It then follows that how the student perceives their environment, personality, and opportunity also will determine the career choices students make. These factors affect career choices of high school students. Identifying these factors would give parents, educators, and industry an idea as to where students place most of their trust in the career selection process. It would also allow students to examine processes they use for career selection.The literature review has provided recommended models in career choices. The review of the literature showed that three areas of a student’s life affect the career choices they make: environment, opportunity, and personality. All three played varying roles in career outcomes.


For clarity the terms used are defined as follows:

Career choice

The broad opportunities that exist for life long vocations. These vocations are set out in a framework of strategies moving toward personal goals. Fields of vocational, academic, and sociological endeavors are explored for the purpose of satisfying personal, economic, and intellectual goals.


The complex physical factors that make up our surroundings (Britannica, 2002), and in turn act upon us. For the purposes of this study they would include the forces of family, political, social, and economic issues that both typical and non-typical students may deal with on a day-to-day basis.


Forces acting on or within a person causing an initiation of behavior (Britannica 2002) or what it is that moves us. In this study we will deal with the issues that help or hinder students in making career choices.


Those choices in one’s life which are exposed either in a subtle or obvious manner. These choices or paths give the individual a selection between two or Career Choice Factors 19 more outcomes. The outcomes of one’s choosing may or may not exceed one’s present abilities.


A characteristic way of thinking, feeling and behaving (Britannica, 2002). The personality is the collection of impressions in the appearance of the student’s body and the impressions believed to have been made on others, good or bad. One’s personality may embrace attitudes and opinions that affect the way we deal with interactions of people and, in particular to this study, the situations of choosing a career.

Quality of life

The depth in the content of richness and fullness in our day-to-day existence. This includes observed and unobserved criteria that contribute to the fulfillment with our expectations and aspirations.


Many factors affect career choices. Adolescent occupational choice is influenced by many factors, including life context, personal aptitudes, and educational attainment. Whether college-bound or work-bound, meeting the challenge of this developmental milestone is critical in adolescents' lives.

Family  factors

Young adults, through interaction with the context of family, school, and community, learn about and explore careers that ultimately lead to career choice. The interdependence of family, school, and community culture played a critical role in shaping the youth's occupational choice. The economic and social circumstances of the broader community coloured and influenced the youth's perceptions of appropriate career choices.

Youth in communities of more affluence appeared to have more family and school support in career exploration, which resulted in consideration of a wider range of career options. Parents, followed by other family members, provided valuable learning experiences through their own role models and supporting activities that assisted in exploring career interests. Work-bound youth's parents frequently taught skills that provided youth with a broader understanding of their own aptitudes contributing to career

Socio economic and political - geographical factors

 For example, students who have lived on an island may choose a career dealing with the water, or they may choose to leave the island behind, never to have anything to do with water again. Maybe someone in the student’s life has made a significant impact or impression, leading to a definite career choice. Parents’ educational background may influence student views on whether or not to continue their education. Someone they saw on television may have influenced the student, or parents may have demanded that they join a family business. These are various environmental factors that would lead a student to a chosen career.

College-bound and work-bound young adults are influenced by vastly different social and economic contextual factors in their pursuit of markedly different occupational paths while transitioning from school to work. College-bound and work-bound youth exist side-by-side in high school, but face the transition to the workplace in different time frames and with different expectations for career opportunities available to them.

College-bound youth had career trajectories that were future oriented, with the first step being college participation. "College gives me a chance to test out what I want to do. I can always switch majors. It's most important to graduate."


A characteristic way of thinking, feeling and behaving (Britannica, 2002). The personality is the collection of impressions in the appearance of the student’s body and the impressions believed to have been made on others, good or bad. One’s personality may embrace attitudes and opinions that affect the way we deal with interactions of people and, in particular to this study, the situations of choosing a career.

The personality factors to be considered include their mental abilities, special abilities, and interests. Splaver (1977, p.13) considered factors of mental abilities to be “verbal comprehension, word fluency ability, spatial ability, numerical ability, reasoning ability, and memory.”

How students have seen themselves in a role in which personality is a determining factor may influence a chosen career. Some careers demand that you have the personality to match the qualities of the occupation.


Exploration of career choices should be a positive endeavor for students. A thoughtfully constructed career choice process will provide a meaningful, productive, satisfying quality of career choices. A career choice process or outline might provide better answers than making life decisions based upon 18 years of experience.