The Adult Years
Theories of Adult Development
Developmental Tasks of Adulthood
Life Patterns of Men and Women
Health Problems in Adulthood
Activating Psychological Resources in Patients
In a conversation with two children I happened to ask them what they thought it meant to be an adult. The boy (age 9) did not hesitate: 'It means to have a job and support yourself.' The girl (age 11) gave a more elaborate answer: 'To be adult means that you must take on a lot of responsibility — you have to look after your children — it is very hard work to be an adult.'
These answers reflect traditional sex roles of adults, emphasizing important tasks in adulthood : work and love. Most developmental psychology textbooks ignore adult development. It is as if nothing of interest happens to the development of the person beyond the age of 20. Even though several researchers (e.g. Havighurst, 1972; Neugarten, 1973; Vaillant, 1977; Levinson, 1978; Erikson, 1982) have studied adult development, their findings and theories rarely make it into developmental textbooks. There are at least two explanations for this. First, it may be that because adult development has been studied in the context of aging, it has been associated with aging rather than with development. Secondly, it could be that the physical model of development, which describes a growth in functions for the young person, a plateau for the adult, and a decline for the old person, has also influenced thinking about psychological development. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth than to describe adult devel