What Is the Nature of Adult Development?

1. Questions of Adult Development and the Transition to Adulthood: Mahatma Gandhi represents one image of adult development. In what ways is his life typical, in what ways is it exceptional? According to Erikson and others, what are the main issues faced by the young adult? The extended life span influences adult personality development by making it more critical. How does increased longevity influence a person’s sense of control?

2. The Child Parent to the Adult: A great deal of personality growth and development has taken place in childhood, including the coalescence of temperament into traits, and the development of substantial models of the self and the world. What would this lead you to expect about childhood bases of adult personality?

3. Childhood Influences on Temperament and Traits; Models of the Self and World: Given that childhood personality carries over to adulthood, in specific, what can you say about the influence of childhood personality traits on adulthood? What about mental models such as attachment developed in childhood?

4. The Stability of Traits: Findings in the middle 1970s indicated that personality traits are relatively set for the individual by young adulthood. There are, however, individual changes, as well as group changes, in the overall level of traits. How do the Big Five personality traits, for example, change over adulthood?


What Are Young Adults Like?

5. In Search of Intimacy: One of the tasks of young adulthood is to find a partner with whom to be intimate. What are some of the ways young adults do this? How are men’s and women’s strategies for impressing their potential partners the same or different? To whom are they attracted?

6. In Search of Good Work: Another task of young adulthood is finding a good occupation. What are some of the criteria people use for finding a good job? What variables contribute to occupational satisfaction?


How Does the Individual Traverse Middle Adulthood?

7. Finding Occupational Success: Some people find more occupational success than others. What are some of the personality variables that lead to success across occupations? How does positivity enter into job success? What is necessary for high levels of achievement?

8. Staying Married: For those people who have been able to partner, the task of middle adulthood is to maintain the relationship. Here, too, personality traits and other variables can contribute. What are some of the personality traits that tend to preserve marriages; which traits might place marriages in danger?

9. Personality and Health: It turns out that although people with high negative affect (e.g., neuroticism) complain more about their health, there are few objective health differences between such individuals and more positive people. Personality traits do, however, enter into the health equation. What findings in particular stand out?

10. Helson’s Typology of Change: People who have trouble early in their lives are more inclined to change than others. Helson argued that there were two dimensions, personal mastery and personal growth. What four groups of changers does that theory define?


Where Is Personality Headed in the Concluding Parts of Life?

11. Good Functioning: One approach to psychological health is to identify what is required for good functioning. Do you know how Freud referred to the capacity to function well? It also means being free of mental illness.

12. Adding Strengths; Strengths in Context: Another approach to psychological health is to identify a number of potential strengths personality can take on; for example, acceptance, caring, compassion, and optimism have all been identified as strengths. Are there other such strengths you can identify? When is optimism not a strength? When is its opposite—pessimism—a strength?

13. Optimal Types; Optimal Types in Context: Maslow suggested that the self-actualized person represented an optimal type. This individual had excellent reality perception, acceptance of the reality of the world, and freshness of perception. What other attributes did the self-actualized individual possess? What did Carol Gilligan believe was an alternative strength to Maslow’s idea of autonomy?