Preface

Human Development in Adulthood is designed as a comprehensive overview of adult development for students of psychology, sociology, and social work, as well as those planning to enter nursing and other health-related or humanservice professions. It is written so anyone who is interested in the topic can learn and benefit from reading the material. Concepts, theories, research findings, and practical implications of the information are all presented thoroughly and understandably. In addition to physical, cognitive, personality, social, and sexual development in adulthood, the book deals with gender and ethnic group differences and issues, love and marital relations, living conditions and economic problems, crime and war, and aging and death.

This book is interdisciplinary, including concepts, theories, and research findings from biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, political science, and other disciplines. Emphasis is placed on the fact that human beings are similar in many ways, but that everyone is a unique entity with his or her own perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. Each person of a particular age, sex, race, culture, and socioeconomic status is shaped somewhat differently by the interaction between biological, psychological, and social structures and events.

A guiding theme of the book is that, rather than ending with childhood and adolescence, development and change continue across the life span. People do not abruptly cease being children and become adolescents overnight, nor do they stop being adolescents at age 18 and suddenly become adults. Human development is much more gradual than that, and we may scarcely notice when boys and girls turn into adults. Adulthood is both a transition between the beginning and end of life and a continuing journey from youth to old age. It is often convenient to divide that journey into a series of stages, but the stages are rarely abrupt breaks with the past. Like other journeys, adulthood is one in which later circumstances are affected by earlier experiences and choices. Not only are adults similar to and different from each other but also they are similar to and different from what they were at earlier stages of development.

The organizational plan of the book reflects the fact that, although indi-

vidual development is punctuated occasionally by sudden leaps, there is a great deal of continuity in the experiences and behaviors of the individual over a lifetime: The child is father to the man (or woman) and the past is prologue to the future. Some of us, and all of us in some ways, never grow up; we remain children or adolescents in certain respects even into later life. Although we may behave "maturely" most of the time, certain features of our personality and behavior can remain at an earlier "stage" of development, or when under great pressure we may respond as we did years before.

Adulthood is a time for decisions concerning marriage, career, parenting, and, in general, the style of life we want to live. The continuity of adult development is reflected in the fact that what we decide and do today affects what we become tomorrow. The choices and decisions that we make now may have both short- and long-term implications for what we attain or achieve next week and next year. Those choices are not always easy to make, because their consequences are never completely predictable. Still, we must choose, live with those choices if we can, and try to correct them if the outcomes are unbearable.

The world oftoday is a pluralistic, multicultural, technologically based, and — at least in Western nations — individualistically oriented macrocosm replete with environmental, social, and political problems. The rules for peaceful coexistence have changed since yesteryear and the need to understand people of different cultures and in different economic, social, and political circumstances has become even more critical. The population of the world continues to expand, and its demographics are forever changing. People of various nationalities and ethnic groups have become physically and functionally closer and are competing for the same space and resources. Consequently, a comprehensive discussion of adult development should consider the important issues of today, including those centered in cultural, racial, gender, social class, economic, religious, and political differences. This I have tried to do.

Many people have contributed to this book, including Eliot Werner, Herman Makler, and Jacquelyn Coggin. In the end, however, the responsibility for whatever shortcomings it may have is mine.

Lewis R. Aiken

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