What are the social and emotional challenges of this stage of life? · ■ BIOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT Telomere Length: A Marker of the Impact of Life Circumstances on Biological Aging

What are the social and emotional challenges of this stage of life? · ■ BIOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT Telomere Length: A Marker of the Impact of Life Circumstances on Biological Aging

What are the social and emotional challenges of this stage of life?

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT

· Biological Aging Is Under Way in Early Adulthood

· Aging at the Level of DNA and Body Cells

· Aging at the Level of Tissues and Organs

· ■ BIOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT Telomere Length: A Marker of the Impact of Life Circumstances on Biological Aging

· Physical Changes

· Cardiovascular and Respiratory Systems

· Motor Performance

· Immune System

· Reproductive Capacity

· Health and Fitness

· Nutrition

· Exercise

· Substance Abuse

· Sexuality

· Psychological Stress

· ■ SOCIAL ISSUES: HEALTH The Obesity Epidemic: How Americans Became the Heaviest People in the World

· COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT

· Changes in the Structure of Thought

· Perry’s Theory: Epistemic Cognition

· Labouvie-Vief’s Theory: Pragmatic Thought and Cognitive-Affective Complexity

· Expertise and Creativity

· The College Experience

· Psychological Impact of Attending College

· Dropping Out

· Vocational Choice

· Selecting a Vocation

· Factors Influencing Vocational Choice

· Vocational Preparation of Non-College-Bound Young Adults

· ■ SOCIAL ISSUES: EDUCATION Masculinity at Work: Men Who Choose Nontraditional Careers

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The back seat and trunk piled high with belongings, 23-year-old Sharese hugged her mother and brother goodbye, jumped in the car, and headed toward the interstate with a sense of newfound freedom mixed with apprehension. Three months earlier, the family had watched proudly as Sharese received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from a small university 40 miles from her home. Her college years had been a time of gradual release from economic and psychological dependency on her family. She returned home periodically on weekends and lived there during the summer months. Her mother supplemented Sharese’s loans with a monthly allowance. But this day marked a turning point. She was moving to her own apartment in a city 800 miles away, with plans to work on a master’s degree. With a teaching assistantship and a student loan, Sharese felt more “on her own” than at any previous time in her life.

During her college years, Sharese made lifestyle changes and settled on a vocational direction. Over-weight throughout high school, she lost 20 pounds in her sophomore year, revised her diet, and began an exercise regimen by joining the university’s Ultimate Frisbee team, eventually becoming its captain. A summer spent as a counselor at a camp for chronically ill children helped convince Sharese to apply her background in science to a career in public health.

Still, two weeks before she was to leave, Sharese confided in her mother that she had doubts about her decision. “Sharese,”her mother advised, “we never know if our life choices are going to suit us just right, and most times they aren’t perfect. It’s what we make of them—how we view and mold them—that turns them into successes.”So Sharese embarked on her journey and found herself face-to-face with a multitude of exciting challenges and opportunities.

In this chapter, we take up the physical and cognitive sides of early adulthood, which extends from about age 18 to 40. As noted in Chapter 1 , the adult years are difficult to divide into discrete periods because the timing of important milestones varies greatly among individuals—much more so than in childhood and adolescence. But for most people, early adulthood involves a common set of tasks: leaving home, completing education, beginning full-time work, attaining economic independence, establishing a long-term sexually and emotionally intimate relationship, and starting a family. These are energetic decades filled with momentous decisions that, more than any other time of life, offer the potential for living to the fullest.

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