Young adults are on the threshold between youthful behaviors and the adult world. Humans in their late teens begin to accept responsibilities for their own lives and learn to depend upon themselves financially, socially, and psychologically. This is also the time when they make life choices which will ultimately shape their futures and the people they eventually become. Renowned theorist Daniel Levinson defines adult development in the age between 17 and 33 as the novice phase, because this is the point where the young person takes on new responsibilities in the same way as an amateur or novice in a specific occupational field. According to theorist Erik Erikson:
In this stage, the most important events are love relationships. Intimacy refers to one's ability to relate to another human being on a deep, personal level. An individual who has not developed a sense of identity usually will fear a committed relationship and may retreat into isolation. It is important to mention that having a sexual relationship does not indicate intimacy. People can be sexually intimate without being committed and open with another. True intimacy requires personal commitment. However, mutual satisfaction will increase the closeness of people in a true intimate relationship (Stage 2013).
At this stage in their lives, young adults have already developed much of their personalities, psychological and sociological profiles, as well as have finished developing physically. However, even at this advanced stage, people are still changing and developing both from physiological and sociological aspects. Many researchers state that this stage in life is arguably the best in terms of physical and mental health, but there may be other issues which a person this age must deal with.
Most young adults will have completed their physical development by the time they reach the age of eighteen. Organs, muscles, and the rest of the body will reach their peak of health and functionality (Silverman 2011). This is the point in the life of a young person when they are at their healthiest; at least the average person is at their healthiest during young adulthood. Taking care of the body in this period of a person's life will ensure better health later on as the body naturally deteriorates with age. Physical maturation may continue through this age including growth in height as well as development of sexual physical characteristics including breasts in women and the penis in men. Unnatural development through plastic surgery will be the only way to change fundamental physical characteristics from this point on.
In terms of cognition, young adulthood is a very important stage. Although most other organs and muscles have finished their development, the human brain is still increasing in size (Zurko 2013). The mind will continue growing throughout young adulthood. Just as young adulthood is the time when the physical body is at its peak, so too this is the time in a life when the brain is at its healthiest point. At young adulthood, the brain will be at its best. The young adults have the greatest ability to learn new things and also the strongest memory of any other stage of a human life. Scientists have recently asserted that major life decisions might be more successful if the person waits until their late 20s (Beck 2012). More and more young people entering college do not know what they want out of life and psychologists have argued that this is actually a good thing because it means that when a person finally does make an important decision about their future, it will be based on education and experience and will ultimately prove to be a better choice.
At this point in their lives, young adults begin to be involved in adult pursuits, such as entering the workforce or in pursuing higher education at a trade school or college in order to prepare for employment which requires more training (Advocates 2008). They will identify their career ambitions and begin working towards preparedness for the field of their choice. Within this educational setting, young adults will acquire new skills and abilities which they can then use in their lives. Additionally, at this point in life, people will be held accountable for their actions. For some people, this will be the first time in their lives that they have any feeling of personal responsibility and accountability. They will be able to understand that there are consequences for their actions and that the rest of the world will hold them either financially or socially responsible if their choices negatively impact other people. Other things that young adults are able to do that they could not in their younger age include being able to fully understand abstract rather than concrete ideas and concepts.
Young adults are targeted for peer pressure more than most other groups. They are constantly told by other people and by multimedia that they should act a certain way, look a certain way, and purchase certain products. If the person does not conform to these social dictations, then they face ostracism and can become social outsiders rejected by the popular cliques and forced to deal with the repercussions of their individuality. Because of the myriad of dangers which are placed upon the young person because of pressure, it is logical that researchers have proven that 18 to 25-year-olds make some of the poorest life choices. According to the article "Delayed Development: 20-Somethings Blame the Brain" by author Melinda Beck:
For young adults, [this age] can be a stressful time. High rates of anxiety, depression, motor-vehicle accidents and alcohol use are at their peak from 18 to 25, trends that tend to level out by age 28, studies show. And a recent survey by Clark University, which polled more than 1,000 young adults nationwide, found that 72% said this time of life was stressful and 33% said they were often depressed. Still, 89% believed they would eventually get what they want out of life (2012).
Thus, research has proven that from a psychological perspective, young adulthood is a very precarious and important period in a person's life.
Females are particularly at risk to be negatively impacted by their peers. Eating disorders, for example, are frequently found in young adult females and even in some males because of the psychological need to conform to society's definition of beauty. In a scientific investigation, researcher R.A. Botta found that the media portrayal of beauty has a heavy influence on the self-images of young women and men in the world today (1999,-page 30). In the test, 214 teenage girls were involved. Botta determined that the media accounts for a staggering 17% of a person's own self-image and 33% of how a person determines beauty in terms of thin or heavy. In the modern age, students are even more surrounded by media. They have images on their phones and televisions and computers. Everywhere they are seeing images of what is accepted as beautiful. If they do not fit up to this ideal, they can easily become distraught and serious mental issues like depression can set in.
By the time that a person becomes a young adult, much of their personality is already formed. However, it is in this stage of life that the person will be called upon to show how their upbringing has shaped things such as their ability to make decisions and how they react in pressure situations. According to Nevid and Rathus (2005) as cited by Angel Tate (2008), "The social development and personality development for the young adult can be identified with a desire to be socially independent and with a high ambition to succeed and can include occupation selection, selecting a life-partner, starting a family, accepting responsibilities, and social networking" (Tate 2008). More than likely this will also be the period when a person develops specialized interests and takes part in hobbies and extracurricular activities like sports or community service organizations.
Young adulthood is both a wonderful and terrifying times in a person's psychological development. Friends made during this period of a person's life are often friendships which are the most lasting. They tend to be based on common values and interests because these are the focus of attention for young adults and they will tend to gravitate to people with whom they have things in common. This will be the period when young people transition into an adult relationship with their parents which will be based on a more level playing field than when the young adult was a child.
Most young people will have their first real and meaningful romantic relationships on an adult level in young adulthood. Indeed, many psychologists and sociologists argue that the young adult period's most important development is in terms of interpersonal relationships (Beaty 2002). At this stage, people come to fully understand that they need companionship and feel a psychological need to form meaningful relationships with friends and with potential romantic mates. Although some people become sexually active at…