Life development is a continuous process, running from conception to death. It is so extended, making more sense when described in stages than focusing on the entire life span. It is also easier to facilitate decisions concerning individuals when looking at such phases. Each of these life stages has specific characteristics. Some have clear boundaries between each other. For instance, birth is a clearly defined boundary between the prenatal stage (when the child is still in the womb) and the postnatal stage. Therefore, it is crucial to describe development using the characteristics and skills society expects an individual to develop. This paper will focus on the following theorists: Erikson, Kohlberg, and Piaget and the deficiencies of their theories. It will focus on cognitive and personality development in the adolescence-early adulthood stage. The postulate is that significant social, political, and economic changes have shortened the adolescence to early adulthood developmental stages as young adults deal with the need to care and provide for their siblings and the elderly.
Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development sought to describe the development process throughout the lifespan. According to Erikson, adolescents are trying to understand how they relate to the world and their tasks of identifying, evaluating, and selecting values and roles for their adulthood (Hamman & Hendricks, 2005). This theory proposed that adolescents seek to achieve a sense of uniqueness and provide a sense of unity. They must define themselves as distinct from their parents and peers and make choices that diverge from those made by parents. It is a contestable issue today, as discussed in the following sections. Like Piaget, Kohlberg downplayed the role of the family in the development of moral reasoning and focused on the peer group and schools (Hardy et al., 2019). Kohlberg argued that moral development among adolescents is independent of their identification with parents and family participation (Speicher, 1994). Observational studies support the idea that role-taking opportunities in the family promote moral development.
Erikson, Kohlberg, and Piaget did not extensively describe the potential changes in psychological and cognitive development promoted by societal changes as seen today. I argue that there is a merge between adolescence and early adulthood, a stage in which teenagers take adulthood roles such as caring for their siblings and the elderly. Progressively, this impacts their late adulthood stages by causing them to bypass some of the stages mentioned by Erikson, Kohlberg, and Piaget’s theories. Due to several external factors, the stage between adolescence and early adulthood has condensed such that we can now describe lifespan in three stages: Childhood, adolescence-early adulthood, and adulthood.
According to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, hardship in several domains during childhood, particularly adolescence, is associated with feeling older and self-identifying as an adult in the late twenties (Johnson & Mollborn, 2009). In low-income families, adolescents have fewer educational opportunities and face various other challenges that force them to drop out of school and explore things they ought to have known in late adulthood stages (Escarce, 2003). For instance, a child that leaves school may end up engaging in unprotected sex, which may lead to early pregnancies and their eventual promotion to fatherhood or motherhood statuses. In this scenario, they would not have taken adequate time to learn new things as postulated by Kohlberg’s or Erikson’s development theories.
These changes are also evident in high-income families, whether in industrialized or non-industrialized families. For instance, children in single-parent homes grow up faster because they often become junior partners in the management of the family (Johnson & Mollborn, 2009). They do more housework and take on higher levels of responsibility than children in married-parent families. According to Johnson and Mollborn, when children and adolescents take on a higher level of duty that often comes at older ages, they begin to feel like adults. In some countries, work and welfare policies may cause adolescents to take on a larger share of several household responsibilities while their parents work (Aldridge, 2017; Gibbs, 2017). This change challenges cultural understandings of these crucial life stages as relatively carefree and dependent upon others. My argument is that the stage between adolescence and early adulthood is now shorter in modern society because of numerous factors causing massive changes in the role of adolescents and young adults.
Felicity, a 20-year old African-American born in a single-parent family in the Texas suburbs, grows to see her mother toil for her and two other siblings. However, in her early twenties, she may consider taking some family roles to assist the struggling mother. Felicity may also become a co-parent whenever the mother is not around or unable to provide some critical needs. Instead of spending her adolescence as an observant young lady trying to understand society, she takes up adulthood roles. Her transition to early adulthood will get shorter and almost immediate.
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