Adulthood – Concept, beginning, end, stages and characteristics

We explain what adulthood is, its beginning, end and characteristics. In addition, its biological and psychological aspects and what are its stages.

Adulthood is the stage of human development that follows youth and precedes old age.

What is adulthood?

Adulthood is the stage of human development that follows youth and precedes old age. It is the stage in which the full physical and intellectual maturity of the individual is obtained., and the fullness of social and legal rights and duties is obtained. It is commonly framed between 21 and 60 years, and is understood as an intermediate plateau in human life.

In biological terms, adulthood corresponds to the imago state of animals, that is, to the sexual, physiological and social maturity of the individual. However, given the vital complexity of the human being, these equivalences are always tentative.

Human adulthood comes after the rapidly changing stage of adolescence. Not only does it bring with it this biological and physiological fullness, but also a relative emotional and psychological stability, together with a greater burden of responsibilities and autonomies in the face of culture and society.

However, coming of age and adulthood should not be confused. The first is the minimum age necessary to be considered a responsible and autonomous actor in the face of the law, but in a strict sense adulthood usually comes in later years. Anyway, the use of age ranges to define the stages of human life is always tentative and approximate.

Characteristics of adulthood

Generally speaking, adulthood is characterized by the following:

  • Ends muscle and bone growth of the individual, and after a reduction of the physical capacities of the same, towards the end of the stage a very gradual decline begins.
  • The individual reaches the fullness of his mental and intellectual processes, with a gradual and progressive decline in learning capacity, but at the same time greater emotional stability and a greater capacity to relate what is known.
  • The personality of the individual is already expressed in its entirety, that is to say, each one already happens to be as they are.
  • Greater moral responsibility is expected of the individual, once the youthful stages of egoism have been overcome, and therefore a greater capacity to make responsible decisions and to judge their social environment in a responsible way.
  • It is the stage in which a family is usually formed, that is, paternity or maternity begin to constitute a concern for individuals.

Stages of adulthood

Adulthood comprises two major stages, generally: early adulthood and middle adulthood.

  • Early adulthood It is the initial period of adult life, which ranges between 21 and 40 years. This is the stage in which the processes of corporal, physical and intellectual growth end, reaching the fullness of their physical capacities around the age of 25-30, with great agility, strength and endurance. In this stage, social and reflective thinking flourishes, open, adaptable and that integrates logic, emotion and intuition. Socially, the young adult assumes a greater burden of responsibilities and freedoms, taking his first firm steps in the professional, ethical and social direction that will define the rest of his life. The affective and emotional ties become more solid and the sentimental life begins a notorious settlement.
  • Middle adulthood instead it is the plateau of human life, which ranges between 40 and 65 years of life. It is also known as “second adulthood” and it is a vital stage marked by self-realization and great productivity in intellectual (and / or scientific, philosophical or artistic) terms, since the cultural background acquired in the previous stages is sufficient to carry out significant contributions to the world. At this stage there is also the so-called “crisis of the Middle Ages” in which the individual forges himself a new inflection of his personality, to face the decline in his physical and sensory capacities, which is already beginning to become noticeable, as well as the appearance of early diseases. This usually goes hand in hand with the pursuit of pleasures rather than the satisfaction of social or individual pressures, and in general it is a stage of full independence, which ideally prepares the individual to face old age.