Developmental Issues

Human development is a continuous process characteristic of intermittent stages of growth and development from childhood to adulthood. Together, the intermittent stages comprise a person’s lifespan. Developmentalists break down human lifespan into nine stages, namely prenatal, infancy, early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, late adulthood, and death. Infancy and childhood stages are considered as the foundation for the latter stages of life. Beginning at the adolescence stage, an individual undergoes biological, psychosocial, cognitive and behavioral changes. At each stage, there are developmental concerns characteristic.

The present report utilizes a case study to highlight developmental concerns characteristic of each stage of development from adolescence to late adulthood. Carlos, a 63-year-old divorced male, exhibits social and emotional loneliness characteristic of a gray divorce. Tracing his biological, psychosocial, social, cognitive and environmental factors that influenced his behavioral development from adolescence revealed developmental issues that could have contributed to divorce after midlife. His current relationship status necessitates a critical evaluation of the development and expression of intimacy beginning at adolescence through to late adulthood. 


            Adolescence represents a transitional stage of development between childhood and adulthood. It is during this period that a person experiences emotional and biological changes. Psychologist Hall denoted this period of human development as “Storm and Stress” because conflicts are a normal part of most teenagers. This stage of human development is characterized by various forms of dysfunctions/problems, which may eventually impair normal psychosocial development.

Some of the problems that adolescence face include issues of identity, independence, relationships, and sexuality (Bista, Thapa, Sapkota, Singh, & Pokharel, 2016). Evidence from the case study indicates that Carlos may have developed relationship issues as an adolescent, as evidenced by the outcome of his marriage. Levy (2019) asserts that mental health issues or psychosocial disorders that develop during adolescence may have contributed to the poor relationship outcome later in adulthood. Based on his current relationship status, there is a possibility that Carlos may have developed an externalizing disorder that makes it hard for him to maintain romantic relationships. Aggression is the most probable externalizing disorder that Carlos experienced as an adolescent, which hinders his ability to sustain romantic relationships.


            Aggression as a psychosocial disorder may have developed as a result of isolation from loving relationships as an adolescent, according to Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development (McLeod, 2018). Challenges of sharing himself with others may have characterized his relationships as an adolescent. From a social learning perspective, there is also a possibility that Carlos grew up in a social environment where aggressive behavior was normalized by adults close to him, such as his parents (Ferguson, 2019). Besides, he may be genetically predisposed to undermine loving relationships through an expression of aggression. Due to apparent reinforcements in his social environment, aggression inevitably became a major behavioral characteristic of the formal operational stage, according to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development.

            Aggression and irritability, which cost Carlos his marriage, would have been addressed through cognitive behavioral therapy and parent management training. The Cognitive-behavioral therapeutic approach would have helped to address deficits in social problem-solving skills and emotion regulation that contribute to aggressive behavior (Sukhodolsky, Smith, McCauley, Ibrahim, & Piasecka, 2016). Meanwhile, the parent management training approach could have mitigated Carlos’ aggressive behavior by improving family interactions. The goal of this approach would have been to improve parental competence in providing a safe environment that reinforces positive behaviors.

Young Adulthood

            Young adulthood is a period of human development characterized by its own unique set socio-cultural tasks and psychological issues. Evidence from research studies indicates that the major psychological issues of young adulthood are identity, intimacy and independence (Merriam, 2014).  The psychological issues or concerns manifest themselves more vividly in arenas of family occupation and community. Evidence from the case study indicates that Carlos underlying psychosocial disorder, aggression, as an adolescent could have led to challenges with intimacy as a young adult as evidenced by his inability to sustain an intimate relationship leading to a divorce. According to Erikson’s psychosocial development theory, it is at the stage of young adulthood that people begin to share themselves more intimately with others (Bista, Thapa, Sapkota, Singh, & Pokharel, 2016). It provides an opportunity to explore relationships that often lead to long-term commitments.

Experiencing this stage, successively leads to happy relationships as it includes a sense of safety, commitment, and care within a relationship. In the case of Carlos, loneliness, and isolation may be attributed to an underlying fear of commitment owing to his aggression that led to the avoidance of intimacy in relationships. In this context, the social learning theory infers that Carlos grew up in an environment we are adults failed to demonstrate intimacy towards each other in a relationship (Ferguson, 2019). As a result, he grew up unaware of the essence of demonstrating commitment and emotions in an intimate relationship. However, the biological perspective provides an alternative by inferring that inherent genetic characteristics may have played a critical role in Carlos’ perspective towards intimacy in a relationship. There is evidence that some people are inherently incapable of experiencing and expressing intimacy, thus, unable to sustain romantic relationships. According to Ferguson (2019), Alexithymia is a personality trait common among individuals who are clinically unable to identify and describe emotions experienced by oneself or others. In intimate relationships, such individuals exhibit behaviors such as social detachment and emotional unawareness.

            From a cognitive perspective, Jean Piaget noted that human development is an evolution across four different stages of mental development. Above the ages of 12 years, a person is capable of thinking abstractly and reasoning logically. The individual begins to question philosophical, moral, ethical, political, social issues that require abstract and theoretical reasoning (Cherry & Gans, 2020). At this stage, the essence of intimacy in relationships is questioned and probed through a deductive reasoning process that espouses the potential for growth and development. The individual becomes aware of the social expectations attached to intimate relationships. Intimacy issues among young adults are remedied through Intimacy-Enhancing Therapy (IET) that moderates psychosocial factors that undermine the expression of relationship intimacy (Manne et al., 2012). Beside the Intimacy-Enhancing Therapy (IET), Marital-Intimacy Enhancing interventions are also commonly deployed among young married individuals (Kardan-Souraki, Hamzehgardeshi, Asadpour, Mohammadpour, & Khani, 2016).   

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Middle Adulthood

            Middle adulthood is a period of human development that occurs between the late thirties through the mid-sixties. It is a development stage when a person’s productivity peaks as ageing become more apparent. According to Erikson’s psychosocial theory of development, this provides an opportunity to give back to society by raising children and being productive at work in addition to actively engaging in community activities. The individual develops a sense of belonging to a larger cause than self. Successful completion of this developmental stage leads to feelings of accomplishment and usefulness. According to a study conducted by Levy (2019), positive relationships play a critical role in middle adulthood as they contribute to a state of well-being. Indeed, the majority of adults at this stage of development identify themselves through a relationship with family, especially children and spouses, as well as parents. Therefore, failure to accomplish this lifetime goal of establishing a family can lead to developmental issue attributed to the midlife crisis such as trouble in a marriage, problems with work, aging parents, and children leaving home (Yaffe & Stewart, 2014). Evidence from the case study indicated that Carlos might have experienced trouble in his marriage before midlife. Tracing his development beginning at the adolescence stage reveals that aggression undermined his ability to develop intimate relationships; thus, it was inevitable for his marriage to fail in middle adulthood. Underlying intimacy issues during his young adulthood catalyzed by inherent aggression in adolescence set precedence for pre/post midlife divorce.

            Högnäs (2020) found an implicit relationship between a person’s marital status and social and emotional loneliness, which is characteristic of a divorce. However, there is a significant difference regarding the level of social loneliness experienced by individuals who undergo a divorce prior and after midlife. Divorce after midlife, often referred to as the gray divorce, was associated with significantly lower levels of social loneliness as compared to divorce before midlife (Högnäs, 2020). Therefore, the heightened level of social and emotional loneliness demonstrated by Carlos is as a consequence of undergoing a divorce prior to midlife. In this context, the principles of the ecological systems theory infer that Carlos experienced challenges sustaining individual relationships within communities and the wider society. It was inevitable owing to inherent aggression, which undermined his ability to sustain intimate relationships.

Therapy is a commonly prescribed intervention for individuals experiencing relationship challenges during middle adulthood. It provides an opportunity for growth and generativity by helping the individual to understand the root cause of the crisis as well as gain control over their emotions in order to make meaningful steps towards recovery after a divorce. Besides therapy, marital intimacy-enhancing interventions are also widely used to prevent divorce as a consequence of the midlife crisis (Kardan-Souraki, Hamzehgardeshi, Asadpour, Mohammadpour, & Khani, 2016). The intervention is based on the recognition that a lack of intimacy between couples is a prerequisite for divorce in middle adulthood. As such, they are encouraging intimacy through intimacy counselling and training can help to prevent an impending divorce. 

Late Adulthood

            Late adulthood is the stage of human development from 60 years onwards that is characteristic of physical, cognitive, and psychosocial changes. The physical appearance changes as a result of the skin losing its elasticity and diminishing muscle strength. Other physical changes, including a gradual loss of vision and hearing coupled with a blurring of other senses such as touch, taste, and smell (Bode, Ridder, Kuijer, & Bensing, 2007). The immune system is also weakened and leads to increased susceptibility to illnesses such as cancer and diabetes as well as respiratory and cardiovascular problems. From a cognitive perspective, the individual also experiences a gradual loss in memory and intellectual function as a result of changes in the brain. 

            At this stage of life, the individual confronts many emotional, psychological and social issues as they enter the last phase of their life. According to Erikson’s psychosocial theory, the individual begins to reflect on their lives and often regrets not achieving some goals. Regret is externalized through feelings of despair and bitterness. As a person’s cognitive and physical abilities diminish, dependency on others increases significantly (Ferguson, 2019). Therefore, the communal and family ties or relationship that the individual has established over his lifetime are essential to enable them to look back on their life with a sense of completeness and closure. Therefore, Carlos’ sustained feelings of social and emotional loneliness are synonymous with a person who is dissatisfied with the relationships he has established throughout his lifetime. The social learning theory infers in this case that Carlos feels at a loss watching his peers depend on their family as they age with dignity. A consequence he has to suffer for his inability to sustain intimate relationships that are a prerequisite for establishing a family that provides a support system in latter years.

            The ecological systems theory supports this inference by adding that human beings are socially dependent on their relationships within communities and the wider society. Therefore, not having a family support system at this stage of human development is likely to ignite feelings of social and emotional loneliness. Over the years, several interventions have been developed to help individuals are overcome developmental issues associated with late adulthood. To address developmental issues in late adulthood, educational programs based on proactive coping theory are provided to individuals aged between 50 and 75 years to improve their coping competencies (Bode, Ridder, Kuijer, & Bensing, 2007). Besides educational programs, therapy is also provided to enable the individual to come to terms with their lifetime accomplishments. The goal is to help the individual overcome guilt and regret over past failures.  


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