Developmental Tasks of Early Adulthood

Learning Outcomes

  • Summarize the developmental tasks of early adulthood
College students studying and talking on the grass.

Figure 1. How old do you think this group of young adults are? What clues can you use to help you estimate their age?

Before we dive into the specific physical changes and experiences of early adulthood, let’s consider the key developmental tasks during this time—the ages between 18 and 40. The beginning of early adulthood, ages 18-25, is sometimes considered its own phase, emerging adulthood, but the developmental tasks that are the focus during emerging adulthood persist throughout the early adulthood years. Look at the list below and try to think of someone you know between 18 and 40 who fits each of the descriptions.

Developmental Tasks of Early Adulthood

Havighurst (1972) describes some of the developmental tasks of young adults. These include:

  1. Achieving autonomy: trying to establish oneself as an independent person with a life of one’s own
  2. Establishing identity: more firmly establishing likes, dislikes, preferences, and philosophies
  3. Developing emotional stability: becoming more stable emotionally which is considered a sign of maturing
  4. Establishing a career: deciding on and pursuing a career or at least an initial career direction and pursuing an education
  5. Finding intimacy: forming first close, long-term relationships
  6. Becoming part of a group or community: young adults may, for the first time, become involved with various groups in the community. They may begin voting or volunteering to be part of civic organizations (scouts, church groups, etc.). This is especially true for those who participate in organizations as parents.
  7. Establishing a residence and learning how to manage a household: learning how to budget and keep a home maintained.
  8. Becoming a parent and rearing children: learning how to manage a household with children.
  9. Making marital or relationship adjustments and learning to parent.


Think It Over

To what extent do you think these early adulthood developmental tasks have changed in the last several years? How might these tasks vary by culture?