We explain what adulthood is and the stages it comprises. Also, what are its general characteristics and the experiential crisis.

What is Adulthood?

Adulthood is the stage of human development that follows adolescence , in which the individual is already fully developed and constituted as an individual link of the species. It is known as the fourth stage.

Sexual maturity, personality consolidation, and physical fulfillment occur gradually at this peak stage of life , until eventually old age sets in .

The arrival of adulthood is celebrated and ritualized from social, emotional and even legal points of view , since from this stage a full member of society is formed , with all the rights and responsibilities.

It's important to note that the characteristics of adulthood can vary depending on cultural, social, and economic factors.

Characteristics of adulthood and stages of development:

Adulthood is generally defined as the stage of development that follows adolescence and is characterized by physical, cognitive, and social changes. Here are some common characteristics of adulthood:

  1. Coming of age

The age of majority marks, at a variable age depending on the country, the legal entry into force of adulthood . It is usually around 18 and 21 years of age.

It is not exactly a synonym of it, however, and it is not in vain that many specialists consider adolescence as a period that finally ends in the early twenties.

Even so, the age of majority marks the beginning, in the face of the laws and the State , of the adult life of the individual , and it is usually one of the most ritually celebrated dates throughout cultures .

  1. Stages of adulthood development

stages of adulthood

There are several different models of adulthood development, but one commonly used model is Erik Erikson's theory of psychosocial development, which identifies eight stages of development across the lifespan. Here are the three stages of adulthood development in Erikson's theory:

  • Early Adulthood (Ages 20 to 39): This stage is characterized by the development of intimacy versus isolation. Individuals at this stage are focused on forming intimate relationships and may struggle with feelings of loneliness or isolation if they are unable to form these relationships.
  • Middle Adulthood (Ages 40 to 65): This stage is characterized by the development of generativity versus stagnation. Individuals at this stage are focused on leaving a positive legacy and may struggle with feelings of unfulfillment if they feel they are not contributing to society in a meaningful way.
  • Late Adulthood (Ages 65 and beyond): This stage is characterized by the development of integrity versus despair. Individuals at this stage are focused on looking back on their lives and finding meaning and satisfaction in the experiences they have had. They may struggle with feelings of regret or despair if they feel they have not lived a fulfilling life.

It's important to note that these stages are not necessarily linear, and individuals may move back and forth between them depending on their life experiences and circumstances. 

  1. Independence

What is expected during early adulthood is a yearning for independence in the individual , pointing to needs for physical and emotional space other than the parental home.

Whether or not this can be achieved (this will depend on variables of the socioeconomic environment, cultural and geographical location, as well as the capabilities of the individual), or whether it can be achieved on one's own, as a couple or in a group , it is a necessity. intrinsically linked to adulthood, especially considering that the mature individual will tend, over time, to found his own family.

  1. Social integration

Social integration

Unlike in adolescence, the social ties of the adult necessarily go through their personality and their individual life decisions. Gangs are no longer so frequent , to focus on the couple and on friends who have a similar life path: co-workers, university colleagues, etc.

It is said that the friends made at this stage are truly the ones that will last a lifetime.

  1. Stability

Adulthood, and even more so the middle stage, is a period of greater stabilities in the human being . The meteoric emotionality and volatility of character typical of adolescence are often behind us, replaced by progressive self-awareness and greater depth of character.

Decision -making at this stage (especially in the middle) tends to be more conscientious, more the result of meditation and not the emotion of the moment. Which accuses a more accentuated cognitive development in reflection and flexibility, adaptability and individualism.

  1. Marriage


Most of the adult population marries during early adulthood (between the ages of 25 and 34). It is also the stage of greatest social pressure around issues of reproduction and offspring (especially in women), and the first formal attempts at family life.

In the case of many adults, this decision is postponed for the sake of other experiential areas, but it is common that from the entrance to middle adulthood, the needs of company and belonging derive more towards the family environment , especially with a view to to fatherhood.

Divorce margins, moreover, are clearly increasing worldwide , being more frequent when entering middle adulthood, but the trend points increasingly towards young adults.

  1. Paternity


Along with marriage, the first attempts at paternity (desired or not) usually occur in early adulthood , which is experienced without the tragic dimensions of teenage pregnancy, but it does represent a challenge for young professionals in training.

Just as adolescent pregnancy is common in underdeveloped societies, in many developed societies there is a tendency to postpone pregnancy and the founding of a family, and even married life, in order to first guarantee professional and individual success, when not economic to deal with it. And many, when the time comes, decide to opt for life models other than the family one.

In less developed countries , too, early adulthood constitutes a struggle to find a place in the work environment or to get an education , so paternity is also seen as an impediment and often an accident that precipitates the formation of the family.

  1. The moral

In adulthood , the precepts of morality that will determine life in society are reaffirmed . The social contract, for example, which puts the good of the majority before individual desires, or certain universalist ethical precepts, take root at this stage. And this is because the set of experiences lived and knowledge acquired is already sufficient to evaluate a dilemma from different possible perspectives.

In fact, experts accuse two types of experience as enormous formators of morality, such as: the confrontation of values (such as the one that takes place in the university or in military work) and taking responsibility for the well-being of a third party (such as paternity ). ) . Both types of experiences closely linked to the adult world.

  1. Sexuality


The exercise of sexuality in adulthood finds, ideally, its greatest opportunities for freedom , experimentation and satisfaction. Whether or not within a conjugal or monogamous context, sex reaps an important psychic space in the adult, beginning to give way towards the end of middle adulthood.

Sexuality is perceived as a path towards individual fulfillment and is exercised, in principle, in an autonomous, ethical, open and self-conscious manner.

  1. The experiential crisis

Also known as a mid-life crisis, it usually occurs in the passage from early to middle adulthood , and consists of a radical, sometimes even reckless, rethinking of vital priorities and the rhythm and pattern of life that is led.

Like many other things in life, it is the product of the awareness of finitude: of the eventual end of life , of the inexorable passage of time, reflected in the end, precisely, of the most socially valued stage in our societies: youth.

In summary, adulthood is characterized by independence, self-awareness, responsibility, empathy, intimacy, self-esteem, generativity, adaptability, openness to experience, and continual learning. These characteristics help individuals navigate the challenges and opportunities that come with the adult stage of life.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from technology experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


Veronica is a culture reporter at Collaborative Research Group, where she writes about food, fitness, weird stuff on the internet, and, well, just about anything else. She has also covered technology news and has a penchant for smartphone stories. .

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