The Family Cycle & Adult Development: Marriage, Parenthood & the Empty Nest

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  • 0:05 Adult Development &…
  • 1:21 Marriage
  • 2:17 Parenthood
  • 3:47 Empty Nest
  • 4:23 Styles of Grandparenting
  • 5:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Melissa Hurst
Once a person enters adulthood, the common belief is that development is nearly complete. However, marriage and children have a great impact on adult development. This lesson will describe developmental changes adults encounter as they marry, become parents, and become grandparents.

Adult Development & The Family Cycle

As infants and children age, we expect multiple changes to occur to their physical, mental, and emotional development. Once someone enters adulthood, we assume growth and development is almost complete. This, however, is a misunderstood assumption. Major life events, such as marriage, becoming a parent, children leaving the home, and becoming a grandparent, influence an adult's growth and development. This lesson will describe the changes that occur in adult development due to these life events.

Meet Amy. Amy is in her late twenties and enjoying her first real job and being in the world on her own. Amy grew up in a loving household and had a secure attachment to her parents. She felt safe to explore her environment and make choices but knew she could always count on her parents if she got in trouble. As an adult, Amy still possesses a secure attachment. She holds a positive view of others and herself and is not afraid of entering relationships with friends and potential partners.

Amy is engaged to be married. Let's see if she encounters any developmental challenges or changes as she progresses through her life.

Marriage & Adult Development

Amy is about to enter one of the first significant life transitions for adults, marriage. For most adults, marriage increases self-esteem and helps people develop a secure and positive outlook toward relationship attachment. Since Amy already held a secure attachment, this transition has been easy for her.

Alex, Amy's new husband, however, did not possess a secure attachment. He has always struggled to find autonomy and break away from his controlling parents. He has never lived alone, and this marriage has been tough as he struggles to compromise with Amy and adapt to her preferences and personality.

Eventually, Amy and Alex work out their newlywed disputes and are eagerly anticipating the arrival of their first child. New parenthood is the next major life event that impacts adult development.

Parenthood & Adult Development

Having a baby impacts new parents in many ways. Positively, many adults report that a baby brings them joy and fulfillment and contributes to their own growth and development. There are negative impacts as well.

Many couples report added work and responsibilities. Couples often struggle to manage their family responsibilities and their own needs and wants during the first few months of parenthood. They also lose sleep and have added stress. New couples report, not surprisingly, that they are sleep-deprived, have less time to themselves, and spend time worrying about their baby's health and well-being. Also, marital satisfaction declines. This decline has been reported to be more obvious among women because sharper gender role differentiation is more evident if the child care responsibility falls more heavily on the mother.

The baby's disposition, parent characteristics, parents' own attachment styles, and the amount of support the parent receives also influence how adults manage this life event. Luckily, Amy and Alex's new baby is agreeable and easy going. Amy and Alex agree on their parenting styles and decision-making. Also, thanks to Amy's secure parent-infant attachment growing up, she is able to provide the baby freedom to explore but stays close to provide safety and comfort when the child is distressed.

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