What is Adult Development?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Adult development is a broad psychological area of study focusing on the psychological development of adults; it is a subfield of developmental psychology. This broad field is concerned with many aspects of adult psychology, such as dealing with the loss of parental influence, learning as an adult, and the connection between psychological and physical health in adults. People study adult development for many different reasons, ranging from the purely academic to those with practical workplace applications. The knowledge gained through such research is often applied in the workplace, especially in training and preparing individuals for leadership positions within a company.

One important element of adult development is referred to as loss or grief, referring to the inevitable experience of losing one's parents and other loved ones as one grows older. People respond to this and to the lack of parental guidance and influence in their lives in many different ways. Losing a parent can be particularly difficult and painful for adults who are in transitional stages of their lives, such as getting married or having a child. The ways in which one copes with the loss can have a significant influence on the rest of one's adult life.


Many of the aspects of adult development are more practical in nature. The study of adult knowledge acquisition, for instance, is important, as an increased understanding of adult education can allow educators to better prepare lessons for adults. An understanding of adult development is also often applied by managers for the purpose of educating and motivating their employees. The study of adult development was purely academic at first; the information gathered through academic studies of development allowed for later practical applications.

It is often thought that adulthood tends to be a time of mental and physical decline, but this is by no means strictly the case. Positive adult development is a subfield of adult developmental psychology that examines ways in which adults develop in a positive direction. Reasoning skills, moral and ethical sense, and emotional maturity, for example, tend to improve with age.

Other important aspects of adult development include directionless change, stasis, and decline. Directionless change involves changes that occur during adulthood that are neither positive nor negative. Stasis describes features that remain the same. Decline describes features that become worse over time. Declining features tend to become more apparent with increasing age, as is often the case with memory, for instance.


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