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The Developing Adult - Biological and Psychosocial Perspectives


The study of adult development is a relatively new field. Unlike childhood and
adolescence, which had become fairly established fields of study by the turn of the
twentieth century, focused attention on adulthood as a specific phase of life did not
come about until after the second World War. As a consequence, we know far less
about the process of development during adulthood than we do about childhood
and adolescence. Nevertheless, both the biological and behavioral aspects of
adulthood are now rapidly expanding fields of study. This is particularly true for
the older years of adult life and the process of aging.
In the introductory segment of this course, we will examine the concept of
adulthood as defined in biological and psychosocial terms. We will try to answer
questions such as: What is it that makes one an adult? Are there different stages of
adulthood, and what do these consist of?
Even though adulthood encompasses most of our life span, it can only be
understood as part of the human life cycle as a whole beginning with birth (or even
conception) and ending with death. Therefore, we will need to place adult
development in this broader life cycle perspective even though the earlier stages of
development fall outside the scope of this course.
We will approach the issues in adult development from a multidisciplinary
perspective: biological, psychological, and social. Our lives are embedded in the
physical realities of our bodies and brains. Yet, a purely physical understanding of
who we are would be meaningless in human terms. Hence it is equally important
to understand what it means to be an adult in psychological and social terms.
Hence, we will consider these three components as complimentary rather than
competitive in furthering our understanding of adult life.
Similarly, we will take an eclectic view in considering the various theoretical
attempts to understand and explain adult life. Currently, there is no generally
accepted theoretical model of human development (and perhaps there never will
be). Hence we shall pick and choose whatever seems to make the most sense with
respect to a particular facet of adult development.
Every human being is ultimately unique. Yet, if we are going to understand human
beings as a group, we will necessarily have to generalize. This will mean
describing, for instance, patterns of career or family development which will apply
to large numbers of individuals. And since this course encompasses virtually all of
human life, we will have to be highly selective in what we choose to include in
these lectures. It is my hope that much of what I have to say will be applicable to
our lives of most of the students. Yet it is highly unlikely that every-one of us will
be able to recognize ourself in the patterns being described each and every step of
the way.
In addition to introductory statements to each of the five sections of this guide, you
are provided with additional information for each lecture. First, you are told what
the objectives of the lecture are. Then the lecture outline provides a more detailed
schedule of what will be covered. The readings for each lecture are organized in
three levels. Readings in level one are the most general, typically consisting of a
chapter from a book which deals, for instance, with career choice and
development. There are two textbooks which we will rely on most heavily for this
purpose and they will be introduced in the readings of chapter one. You may
actually find it useful to purchase one of these texts because many of the issues
discussed in the lectures are elaborated more fully with respect to the research data
in those texts. Readings under level two are more specialized, consisting of books
or articles that deal with career issues only. Readings under level three are more
specific still, dealing with the work of one particular author.

01 - The Concept and Study of Adulthood
02 - Physical Development in Puberty
03 - Sexual Maturation and Behavior
04 - Intellectual and Emotional Development
05 - Transition to Adulthood - The Self and Others
06 - Career Choice and Development
07 - Intimacy and Love
08 - Marriage and Parenthood
09 - Marital Satisfaction
10 - Mid-Life - Biological Aspects
11 - Midlife - Transition and Crisis
12 - Sexual Function and Dysfunction
13 - Biology of Aging and Health
14 - Psychosocial Aspects of Aging
15 - Personality - Consistency and Change
16 - Death and Mourning
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Tags: Perspectives, Developing, Psychosocial, course, Adult