Early Adulthood
Physical & Cognitive Development

Prepared by Ethel Cantu

Based on Development Across the Lifespan, 3rd Ed

by Robert Feldman, Prentice-Hall


Physical Development in Early Adulthood

Physical Functioning and Health

Influences on Health and Fitness

Physical Functioning

Peak of strength, energy, and endurance

Body functions are fully developed by mid twenties

Senses are sharpest


Most have no chronic conditions or impairments

Most medical visits are for injuries and pregnancy

Causes of death among 25-44 year olds

AIDS                              35 per 100,000        

Accidents                        32

Cancer & Heart Disease        28 & 20

Homicide & Suicide   15 & 15       

CDC, 1995  

(Rates in US from 1982-1993)

Death Rates

Men are more apt to die from accidents than women

African-Americans have twice the death rate of Caucasians.

The murder rate in the U.S. is significantly higher than in any other developed country.

U.S rate = 21.9 per 100,000 men

Japanese rate = 0.5 murders per 100,000 men <4000% difference!>


Racial factors effect murder rates
Murder is the fifth most frequent cause of death for young White Americans

1 in 131 chance in lifetime

Murder is the most frequent cause of death for African-Americans

1 in 21 chance in lifetime


Influences on Health & Fitness


Low-fat diet, rich in fruits & vegetables is recommended

Yo-yo dieting makes it more difficult to lose weight

Set-point becomes firmer


31% are overweight, 7-10% are obese

Contributes to health problems, increases risk for heart disease & diabetes


Influences on Health & Fitness


Only 10% exercise enough to be in good physical shape

Significant benefits associated with exercise

Overall fitness, strength, & flexibility, optimizes immune response, increases sense of control, increases longevity, decreases stress, anxiety & depression


Single most important risk factor for disease


Moderate amounts contribute to longevity

Overuse, especially to reduce tension, causes health problems

Stress and Health

Stress prompts physiological reactions which weaken the immune system

increases vulnerability to illness

Stress causes blockage of the arteries

Lifestyle factors affect stress levels

regular exercise, good nutrition, adequate sleep, frequent socializing, no smoking, little alcohol associated with less stress

Personal mastery and control minimizes stress

Coping with Stress



Is event positive, negative, neutral?


Do I have the resources & skills to cope with this event?

Coping Strategies


Change the situation to make it less stressful


Consciously regulate your emotions

Defense coping

Using unconscious defense mechanisms to distort reality


Cognitive Development in Early Adulthood

Postformal Thought

College Experience

Schaie’s Stages of Adult Development

Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Intelligence


Postformal Thought

Adult predicaments are sometimes solved by relativistic thinking rather than pure logic.

Postformal thought acknowledges that the world sometimes lacks purely right and wrong solutions and adults must draw upon prior experiences to solve problems.


Thinking shifts to postformal thought

from rigidity to flexibility to freely chosen commitments

adult thought is open, adaptive, relativistic

relies on intuition and logic

can deal with inconsistency and contradiction

Postformal thought is qualitative change

difficult to measure

College Experience

Progression from absolute to relativistic

Dualistic thinking

Right vs wrong, good vs evil, for or against

Multiple thinking

Can hold multiple perspectives on an issue

Can understand validity of other views

Relativistic thinking

Appreciate that differences are equally valid

Example:  When does life begin?


Schaie’s Stages of Adult Development

Acquisitive (childhood/adolescence)

Acquire information

Achieving (early adulthood)

Attain long-term goals re: careers, family, society

Responsible (middle adulthood)

Protect & nourish spouses, families, careers

Executive (middle adulthood)

Take broader perspective, concerned about world

Reintegrative (late adulthood)

Focus on tasks of personal meaning


Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory


Analyze date, solve problems, esp. logical, rational


Use prior experience & ability to solve new problems & cope with new situations


Face demands of everyday, real-world problems

Practical intelligence: model behavior of mentors


Sternberg’s Triarchic Theory of Intelligence

“Alice is a good student, always getting good grades until she reached graduate school. Required to come up with original ideas, Alice began to fall behind. Barbara is not such a good student, but she’s brimming over with ideas for research. Celia is neither a good student nor a creative student, but she’s street smart; she knows how to play the game-how to get things done.”

Robert Sternberg

Pursuing Higher Education

Minority of high school graduates enter college.

40 % of White Americans

29 % of African-Americans

31 % of Hispanic

Only about 40 % of those who start will graduate from college in 4 years.

½  will eventually finish.

70 % of African-Americans drop out of college.


Gender & College

Prejudice and discrimination directed at women is still a fact of college life.

Hostile sexism (overtly harmful treatment)

Benevolent sexism (a form of sexism in which women are placed in stereotyped & restrictive roles that may appear  positive)

Complimenting a student on appearance

Offering an easier research project so a student won’t have to work so hard

Message may be that the woman is not taken seriously, and competence is undermined.


Differences exist in gender distribution in classes & attrition rates

Classes in engineering, the physical sciences, and mathematics tend to have more men than women.

Women earn just 22 % of the bachelor degrees in science and 13 % of the doctorates

Women are more likely to drop out of math, engineering, and physical science classes.


Dropping Out of College

Half of all students drop out of college.

Marriage, children, or death of parent requires students to drop out

Academic difficulties

College is expensive

Some students need time off to mature


Dropping Out of College

First-year adjustment reaction is a group of psychological symptoms relating to the college experience.

Most likely to occur among students who were especially successful academically or socially in high school (sudden change in status often causes distress)

Surveys show that almost half of all college students have a least one significant psychological issue.


When should college students consider getting professional help with their problems?

Psychological distress that lingers and interferes with a person’s sense of well-being and ability to function

Feelings that one is unable to cope effectively with the stress

Hopelessness or depressed feelings

The inability to build close relationships with others

Physical symptoms that have no apparent underlying cause

Almost everyone can benefit from talking to someone if things are bothering them!

Counseling & Career Services  Tandy 205

Support groups

Individual counseling

Career planning

Workshops in relationships, emotions, stress management

Conflict Resolution Center  Tandy 205

Individual problem-solving consultations


Workshops in conflict resolution strategies