Throughout life, every person whether young or old, goes through growth and development that shape their lives. Psychological development is very apparent in children who experience a continuous process of development which have clear developmental points. This drastically changing phase seems to end at around the age of eighteen and results in what we call adulthood, or coming of age. Often, turning 18 seems to be a culmination but in effect it is just the start of adulthood which has various stages although quiet dissimilar to childhood phases. Children are guided as they go into their challenges but adults are expected to know what to do when they face these challenges. This often is not the case, and this has resulted in maladjustments in adults. It is therefore important that adults, especially young adults recognize, understand and accept this impending process so as to make the most of the challenges, new skills and equip them with adapting well to new adult situations. The paper will review my learning experiences in adult development with the theories of Erik Erikson, Alfred Adler and Jean Piaget as a background in relation to the changes that I have adapted to in my adult development. I will further review the development process I have experienced and see how cognitive skills were further developed, used and perfected in adulthood, trying to validate if being prepared for a particular change resulted in more effective results for me.
Children’s growth and development is focused more on physical and cognitive development that eventually leads to adult development. This is defined as an ongoing, continuous process wherein the individual interacts with the environment, changing constantly, tackling increasingly complex tasks and developing an understanding of the environment. This ongoing process is made up of events that gives us experiences to learn lessons, allows individuals to claim an understanding to life’s mysteries, and results in who we are as unique individuals. Development is further defined as an increase in complexity of functions and skill progression (Kozier, 2007). Young adults, as they establish their identity and lives that is independent of their parents, as well as building their own careers, marriage, family and experiencing the loss of loved ones, they may encounter difficulties as they progress. Life experiences teach us naturally about how our minds and body interact with environment to result in development, but we will now review how we can increase the effectivity of learning activities by being prepared for the changes to come.
Erik Erikson's theory in adult development encompasses three stages, the young adult (from 18 to 25 years old), adulthood (25 to 65 years old) and maturity (65 years onwards) (Kozier, 2007). The young adult needs to make a resolution in intimacy and solidarity versus isolation, the adult (sometimes called middle adulthood) will cross the generativity versus self absorption or stagnation while mature adult will resolve issues in ego integrity and despair (Tabers, 2001). I feel that I have successfully crossed young adulthood in that I was able to develop intimacy and found satisfying companionship and love, and resulted in a family that I am very much involved with now with my 15 and 11 year old teenage sons. Going into marriage and having children was an undertaking that we undertook without much planning and forethought. I was only eighteen when I gave birth to my firstborn. In the first few years of marriage and parenting, I faced a magnitude of experiences that allowed me to learn. These learning experiences allowed me to develop a variety of life skills which I previously didn’t possess. Looking back now, I went into marriage and child-rearing as an untrained individual. But that is life, and I really do not think that we can prepare ourselves particularly well for “life”. It is supposed to happen, and it did happen in succession for me, getting married, adapting, having a child, adapting, rearing a child, adapting, having another child and adapting. Even if I had taken a full course in “life adaptation” would the learning I gained have been more effective, or would I have made less mistakes, or have gone through a less rocky living? Would an ideal, picture-perfect journey with smooth sailing stand to have a better acceptability as compared to one where there are some surprises, mistakes and even “blessings in disguise”. I personally think the latter has more learning and adjustment experiences that will make it just as acceptable or effective as the picture-perfect journey.
Now in my middle adulthood phase in my early thirties, I find that I am somewhat unconsciously trying to achieve generativity. I think this is done unconsciously, although it is an effect of my getting to the end of my learning experiences with balance which I do consciously. With my very active schedule due to the school and extra-curricular activities of two teenagers, I find that there is probably not much chance to develop self-absorption or stagnation. I can hardly become self-absorbed as I hardly have time for myself; I am just desperately catching up on the boys, school, work, meal preparation and home maintenance. My basic strength, true enough is production or work which has become a crucial component of my life aside from that of my family. Erikson correctly postulated that middle-age is the time that individuals become pre-occupied with “creative and meaningful work, as well as issues surrounding family” (Kozier, 2007). I find it also fitting that this stage is called the being-in-charge-phase, a role that we have long desired and envied as we tried to establish independence from parents and friends. Another crucial component in my middle adult progress is the care of family, wherein of particular significance is in transmitting culture and values, rearing the children, as well as ensuring a stable home and environment for them to thrive on. This is the stage wherein children’s development are highly involved in thinking, reasoning and language use, and primarily involves a progression of mental abilities that will move from understanding simple to that which is complex. It is at this time that as a parent, I have to be cognizant my children’s level so that our communication style will be specific to his level of acceptance and understanding. I find it easier now to communicate with my second son, because my experience with my first son has set the delineated path for me. In effect, the first experience set a benchmark for what to do, and in some instances, set the set-up of what not to do. It is also at this stage that I have developed a strength in caring for others that is increasingly becoming inclusive of areas beyond my family and closest friends. As Erikson describes it – the middle age individual becomes especially active in contributing to the betterment of society (generativity) and although we are supposed to fear inactivity and meaninglessness, I find that this is difficult to accomplish when one is so busy, there just is not time for inactivity. At the rate things are going now, I cannot see myself becoming dormant and inactive when I become an empty-nester either, I can foresee that I will finally be able to go and devote time to my hobbies which have for now been put away in boxes in the garage waiting for that time that I will be able to have time for it.
Of significant importance to me are the relationships that provide me with companionship and friendship at work, the community and most specially my family. I look back at my life experiences with I expect that when the children leave home, my goals may change and I will be faced with major changes in life which is sometimes called the mid-life crisis if it is negatively crossed. But I’d like to go into that in a “growing old with grace” approach, as I find new meanings and perhaps new goals like a smaller house, a less stressful job, go back to old hobbies or take on new ones. That will be crucial so that I will not become self-absorbed, or go into stagnation so that I may enter late adulthood at 65 years old with integrity, and have a wise disposition. I once read somewhere that much of life is spent preparing for middle adulthood and the last few years is spent in recovering from it. Late adulthood is described the stage wherein older adults remember their lives with happiness and contentment in that they’ve made a contribution to society and have developed what Erikson calls integrity. Inversely, some people may approach this stage with despair as they end their lives with perceived failures, or they may also do so in a very superior, highly dogmatic attitude.
On the other hand, Albert Adler's approach to personality is that a person’s unconscious self ideal is converting inferiority-based emotions to that of a feeling of superiority as an adaptive move (Taber’s, 2007). In response to social and ethical demands, the person can develop an inferiority complex which can become overcompensated and results in that individual becoming egocentric and aggressive with an extreme superiority complex. He further postulates that the “inferiority/superiority dynamic is constantly at work through various forms of compensation” (Taber’s, 2007), sometimes though this results in over-compensation and maladjustment in the personality. Such as when a person overcompensates for feelings of inferiority by excessive dieting and exercising. In the case of anorexia nervosa, the end goal of being "thin" is unattainable because it can never be subjectively achieved (Videbeck, 2004). No matter how thin they are, they can never achieve the ultimate goal of thinness, because it is not an issue of weight but of inferiority. Thin or fat, if she feels inferior, she will always feel that way no matter what her weight is unless her inferiority issues are corrected.
I find it of note that Adler's methods were are not limited to treatment of disorders but he extended his realm to prevention. He believed in preempting future problems in the child with the right approach in the present by encouraging and instilling healthy social interests, cultivating a belongingness within families and communities that will snuff out pampering and neglect (Taber’s, 2007). He believed that when a child is abused through pampering or neglect, inferiority complex which may over-compensate into superiority complexes and various accompanying compensation strategies (Taber’s, 2007) which may eventually result in seeding higher divorce rates, the breakdown of the family, criminal tendencies and various psychopathologic conditions. Although I was not aware of Adler’s views during the first phases of my children’s upbringing, I find that I was still able to pave a process of development for them that is neither pampered nor neglectful. I now try to visualize if it had mattered much if I had know of Adler’s scientific body of knowledge prior to rearing my boys, and if knowing such would have changed my parenting style. I find that it really does not matter that much, because as rational humans, we tend to teach what we were taught, and so even if I had not known about Alder’s pampered or neglectful concepts, I rationally knew by heart that I must bring up the children in a certain delineated scope.
According to Jean Piaget, the rate of development is highly unique to the individual (Inhelder & Piaget, 1969) in that two people when given exactly the right inputs will still have different responses due primarily to their personal make-ups. Development is commonly thought to have at least five major components comprising of physiologic, cognitive, psychosocial, moral and spiritual aspects (Kozier et al, 2007), with less development occurring on the physiologic and cognitive areas in adulthood, and this phase seeing more achievement in the psychosocial, moral and spiritual aspects. Jean Piaget proposed the cognitive theory which involves an individual’s intelligence, perceptual ability as well as the individual’s ability to process information (Videbeck, 2004). Piaget view is that the goal in education is “not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things”. It is in this area that I am able relate well as I try to gain a degree in Management and Human Relations. Being a highly organized person (or one trying to be), I can understand why cognitive development is an orderly process wherein experiences (called stimuli) must exist before intellectual abilities can develop.
Piaget proposes that learning is this is a sequential progress, succeeding ones attained after the preceding stages are successfully achieved. He further posits that each phase is crossed using the primary abilities of assimilation, accommodation and adaptation (Videbeck, 2004). Assimilation is detailed as the process wherein an individual encounters experiences and reacts to it using mechanisms he already has, accommodation on the other hand, is the process wherein an individual develops mechanisms not present in him initially but which he now develops (new knowledge) in response to the experience, which is quickly assimilated. This will result in adaptation – the coping behavior that gives him the ability to handle the demands made by his environment. I have done much assimilation and adaptation but always at it as just a natural way to do things, you just “grin and bear it” so to say. But as I took up this course, it was made clear to me that there is actually a scientific process involved in this and that made so much sense as it will mean that this is something that I can repeat in every endeavor that I take in the future. My success in the past can be replicated over and over and that gives me much confidence.
The social and emotional aspects of an adult’s experience are main components that shape his character and personality. The emotional issues that an adult goes through builds the attitudes one has, the way we live our life, and the way we are with our family, in the workplace and in the community. Whether a young, middle age, or old adult, we each have substantial emotional burdens and overcoming them by acceptance and addressing the problems can lead to what Erikson would call wisdom. I find that my personality type as it is described in several personality classifications give me a rough map of the tendencies that I must watch out for. We all have the tendency to lean on one area; it is but natural, such as for a left handed child to become a left-handed writer even if in his culture it is frowned upon as unlucky. Our predispositions give us an easy way of dealing with life, as if these were tools given to us. But it also gives us the tendency to overuse it to such a degree that it becomes damaging.
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