Friendship and Marriage in Early Adulthood

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  • 0:01 Early Adulthood
  • 0:48 Friendship
  • 2:08 Marriage
  • 4:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

During early adulthood, friendships and romantic relationships take center stage as people become more independent of their parents. Watch this lesson to find out about gender differences in friendships and what makes a marriage successful.

Early Adulthood

Allen is 31, and he's in love. He and his girlfriend Joanna are happy together, and he's planning on proposing next month when they're on a ski trip. Allen and Joanna are in early adulthood, which is the time between adolescence and middle age. Roughly, this means that early adulthood lasts from ages 20-40.

Early adulthood is a time of many changes. Usually, people finish college during this time, and they begin their careers. People are often at their best, physically and mentally, during early adulthood. Much of early adulthood revolves around intimate relationships with others, either with friends or in romantic relationships. Let's look closer at friendship and marriage in early adulthood.


For many people, friendships are very important, and Allen and Joanna are no exception. They each have their own friends that they can hang out with. Joanna loves to have girls' night with her friends, and they all talk about their boyfriends and their issues at work or home.

Allen, though, takes a different approach to his friendships. He and his buddies like to play softball together, go kayaking or do some other fun activity. They don't really talk about issues that they're having or how they feel about their romantic relationships. In fact, Allen hasn't told any of his buddies that he's planning on proposing!

In general, women are more intimate in same-sex friendships than men are. Women tend to share feelings with their friends, while men share activities with their friends. As a result, women often have a more solid support system than men do. They know that they have many friends they can go to if they need a sympathetic ear or a shoulder to cry on.

In opposite-sex friendships, men tend to get more therapeutic support than women. This might just be because men don't tend to get emotional support in their same-sex friendships, whereas women do. Thus, women can spread out the need for support among their friends, while men turn to female friends but not male ones.


Allen is really nervous about proposing. He wants the proposal to be special and for Joanna to say yes and is scared that something will go wrong with the proposal or (even worse) that she won't agree to marry him.

Marriage is a major part of socioemotional development in early adulthood. People at this age, like Allen and Joanna, begin to settle down and move from dating into marriage. But there's a very high divorce rate in the United States. So how can Allen and Joanna know if their marriage will last or if they'll end up in divorce court?

There are four major things that can predict marriage success. They are:

1. Relationship patterns in childhood

Everyone learns how to relate to others in childhood. If Allen, for example, comes from a solid, loving family, he is more likely to be able to maintain a solid, loving romantic relationship as an adult. On the other hand, if he comes from a family where abuse or neglect was the norm, he might have problems, in general, with relationships.

2. Age at marriage

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