Growth and Development in Emerging Adulthood


Mercy is a 23-year-old female in her final year of college. She is the firstborn in a family of five comprised of three girls and two boys. Mercy lives in a blended family since her mother had two children when she married a man with three children. At the time of her mother’s marriage, Mercy was eight years old. She lived with her maternal grandmother for six years while her mother worked and sent money home for her upkeep. When Mercy was seven years old, her mother took her to school in the city, where she would always prepare her for school before getting to work. Since they moved in with the new family, they now live in a four-bedroomed, self-contained house. Both parents are working, and therefore the family does not lack any basic needs. Mercy has established cordial relationships with her siblings and receives equal love from both parents. Currently, Mercy is totally dependent on her parents since she studies full time without a side job.

Stage of Development

Mercy is in the early adulthood development stage, which comprises ages 19-40. According to Lally and Valentine-French (2019), the ages 19-25 can be classified as emerging adulthood, although the developmental milestones do not significantly differ from those aged 25-40. In this stage, an individual undergoes physical, cognitive, and emotional changes that affect their socialization. Çelik and Ergün (2016) argue that early adulthood is characterized by increased freedom and exploration, which sometimes makes it one of the most dangerous stages in the growth and development cycle. Typically, at this stage, individuals are in search of love and relationships (Lally & Valentine-French, 2019). It is expected that by this time, a person has developed a sense of identity; they know who they are and what they want. They are more concerned about their physical appearance, mental health, and emotional stability.

Normally, at this stage, many people tend to establish their autonomy by demonstrating their ability to handle their situations independently. Although some may still live with their parents, they try to contribute to the family’s needs and help with tasks such as farming and shopping. Many people at this stage have a career or are working to achieve one shortly. It is expected that individuals know the value of work and the need to provide for themselves and others, as indicated by Çelik and Ergün (2016). In many cases, men at this period of life have girlfriends for whom they provide basic needs such as food, clothing, and rent. Sexual orientation represents another norm of the early adulthood stage in which people demonstrate their sexual desires (Çelik & Ergün, 2016). By this time, some may declare themselves gay, lesbians, or follow the traditionally accepted norm where men are expected to be sexually attracted to women.

Physical Development

Unlike adolescence, which is marked by distinct physical changes, early adulthood entails the maturation of the already developed features. By the age of 20, men and women have attained a full adult body in terms of height and body parts. Mercy is 5 feet tall, with a waist size of 32 inches, and wears a shoe number 38. Lally and Valentine-French (2019) argue that although human development varies with some people lagging behind the milestones, many will have reached at least fifty percent of the expected milestones three years into the stage. Usually, ladies aged 23 are physically attractive since they have all the features of a woman. She has achieved the size milestone by comparing Mercy’s physique to the expectations. Five feet is an ideal height for a mature woman; usually, when one is shorter, they may be considered a child, especially if they have a young-looking face.

A woman’s body determines her attractiveness and affects her social interactions. Mercy is physically attractive with mid-sized breasts, a flat tummy, and a hips size of 32. According to Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, a person experiences different psychological changes influenced by their physical and mental growth (Çelik & Ergün, 2016). The growth of breasts and hips broadening begins in puberty and continues developing throughout the early adulthood stage. As a norm, women without breasts are considered young and below the expected developmental milestones. Women are expected to have broad hips that differentiate them from men’s straight legs at this stage. In this case, Mercy has met all the established physical development milestones for her age.

Cognitive Development

Unlike in teenagers, where individuals are accustomed to routine activities and parental guidance, early adulthood is characterized by challenges that require critical thinking. Cognitive development regards both academic and non-academic problem-solving skills. Mercy is an average student in class showing exceptional performance in mathematics but considerably low performance in science-related subjects. She often likes solving mathematical problems step-wise and has been the leader of her school’s mathematics club. Outside school, Mercy has mastered the art of creatively finding solutions to life problems. In most cases, when her parents are out of the house, she makes the right judgments on food preparation and ensures the siblings are organized. She has moved from the traditional idea of doing things according to to set rules as she appreciates the dynamic nature of life.

Mercy has met the age-appropriate milestone regarding cognitive development. According to Jean Piaget’s theory, the establishment of formal operational thinking occurs from early adolescence and continues until maturity and is defined by the ability to think abstractly and participate in deductive reasoning (Lally & Valentine-French, 2019). In comparison to the established norms, Mercy’s decision-making skills are good. According to Çelik and Ergün (2016), at this stage, decisions are made based on conditions and circumstances in post-formal thinking, and logic and emotion are merged as adults acquire context-dependent rules. However, Mercy lacks emotional stability since she cries when she finds that one of her siblings is sick and does not know how to assist.

Psychosocial Development

In a society, people are expected to coexist, forming social and psychological connections. Erikson describes the early adulthood psychosocial stage as the period of intimacy vs. isolation (Lally & Valentine-French, 2019). Usually, women at this stage have a boyfriend and few loyal friends. Mercy has a boyfriend aged 26 who is working at a telecommunications company. She has two close friends, one from her school and a neighbor with whom she shares her life issues. She is usually calm, less moody, open to communication, and shy.

Women are expected to be fully aware of their emotional development and develop good social relations in early adulthood. Mercy has met the relationship-forming milestone by having close friends and a boyfriend. Typically, women at this age are expected to be bold when interacting with people, and especially men. In this regard, Mercy has not met the milestone expected because she is usually very shy. Whenever a man approaches her, she usually bows her head when talking or keeps on turning her feet. From Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, failure to establish intimate relationships leads to isolation (Çelik & Ergün, 2016). Mercy does not feel isolated but wishes to form more connections. She fears approaching people for help, thinking they would react negatively. Over the years, she has never confronted anyone directly as she always walks away from trouble.

Measures to Assist

From the growth and development assessment recorded above, Mercy has achieved at least 70% of the expected milestones for her age. However, she needs assistance concerning emotional stability and boldness. She has also expressed the desire to develop more social connections. One measure that would assist her is discussing her fears and situations that make her emotionally weak. She should discuss why she sometimes cries when facing a challenging problem and what needs to be done. After this step, she should be guided on the need to speak rather than cry. Communication is an effective tool for stress management and enhancing emotional stability. If she fears asking for help from outsiders, she could be helped to understand that society is held together by extending support to each other. Lastly, she should be taught the value of boldness in social relationships. Continuous support and closeness to her female friends would help her to slowly develop confidence.


Çelik, B., & Ergün, E. (2016). An integrated approach of Erikson’s psychosocial theory and Adlerian counseling. International Journal of Human and Behavioral Science, 2(1). Web.

Lally, M., & Valentine-French, S. (2019). Lifespan development: A psychological perspective (2nd ed.). Lally & Valentine-French.

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PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Growth and Development in Emerging Adulthood." January 6, 2023.

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PsychologyWriting. "Growth and Development in Emerging Adulthood." January 6, 2023.