At the same time, the relationship with the family changes as the teenager becomes more independent. Teenagers often spend more time with their friends than their family and also will listen more to their friends. The same trends from middle childhood also continue, as friends understand themselves as part of a peer group, and as one-on-one relationships with close friends become more important. The major social change that occurs in adolescence is that people begin to date and explore sexual relationships. In early adolescence, teens often begin dating and exploring love relationships. Berk (399) notes that "sticking with group activities, such as parties or dances, before becoming involved with a steady boyfriend of girlfriend is best for young teenagers." I have observed this and seen that early relationships are based on hanging out with and having fun with others, rather than having one-on-one intimate relationships. This then develops and changes in later adolescence as people begin dating and having more intimate relationships. Overall, it is like this process is a way of exploring as people work out what they want in a partner and in a relationship.
In early adulthood, social relationships are focused on love relationships. This is the period where people try to find a long-term relationship. Berk (451) notes that love has three components: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Passion is often strong at the start of a relationship. As the relationship continues, passion often reduces and intimacy and commitment become more important. When people are successful in love and form a lasting relationship, this often leads to marriage and to starting a family. I have observed this in some cases, but have also observed that many people don't appear to be seeking marriage, commitment, or a family until later in life. This may be due to a changing social clock, where the social clock refers to "age-graded expectations for live events, such as beginning a first job, getting married, birth of the first child, buying a home, and retiring" (Berk 499). The social clock may have changed to a later expected age for getting married and having children. This may also be related to people being more interested in their career in early adulthood and less interested in love relationships.
The next stage of the lifespan is middle adulthood. During this stage, the relationships are often based on the person's own family. This includes relationships with partners and children. Middle adulthood is also a stage of social transition, as relationships with children change as the children become more independent. The middle adulthood stage also often involves forming relationship with a larger family, including son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. I have observed this and especially noted how parents change from being in charge of their children to having more equal relationships with them.
The final stage of the lifespan is late adulthood. Disengagement theory suggests that "mutual withdrawal between elders and society takes place in anticipation of death" (Berk 595). I have observed this in some cases, where some elderly people do seem to withdraw from others. Activity theory suggests that "social barriers to engagement, not the desires of elders, cause declining rates of interaction" (Berk 595). I think this is also partly true, with many elders not able to see others and interact as they once used to. However, it also seems that this is changing a lot. Retirement villages and communities are more common, and these allow for elderly people to remain social. Elderly people are also in better health and this can allow them to socialize more. The children of elderly parents may also be able to take better care of their aging parents. I think this means that many elderly people are beginning to remain social for much longer, either by socializing with people their own age, or by socializing with their own family.
It has now been seen that social development occurs throughout all the stages of the lifespan. At different times, different types of relationships are the focus. People's social skills and the social demands they experience also differ throughout the stages. This shows that people are constantly changing socially, with this a normal part of human life.