The Physiological Peak

Learning Objectives: Physical Development in Emerging and Early Adulthood

  • Summarize the overall physical growth in early adulthood
  • Describe statistics, possible causes, and consequences of obesity
  • Explain how early adulthood is a healthy, yet risky time of life
  • Identify the risk factors for substance use
  • Describe the changes in brain maturation
  • Define sexuality and explain the female and male reproductive systems
  • Describe the brain areas and hormones responsible for sexual behavior
  • Identify sexually transmitted infections
  • Describe cultural views related to sexuality
  • Describe research on sexual orientation

People in their mid-twenties to mid-forties are considered to be in early adulthood. By the time we reach early adulthood, our physical maturation is complete, although our height and weight may increase slightly. Those in their early twenties are probably at the peak of their physiological development, including muscle strength, reaction time, sensory abilities, and cardiac functioning. The reproductive system, motor skills, strength, and lung capacity are all operating at their best. Most professional athletes are at the top of their game during this stage, and many women have children in the early-adulthood years (Boundless, 2016).

The aging process actually begins during early adulthood. Around the age of 30, many changes begin to occur in different parts of the body. For example, the lens of the eye starts to stiffen and thicken, resulting in changes in vision (usually affecting the ability to focus on close objects). Sensitivity to sound decreases; this happens twice as quickly for men as for women. Hair can start to thin and become gray around the age of 35, although this may happen earlier for some individuals and later for others. The skin becomes drier and wrinkles start to appear by the end of early adulthood. This includes a decline in response time and the ability to recover quickly from physical exertion. The immune system also becomes less adept at fighting off illness, and reproductive capacity starts to decline (Boundless, 2016).