four young adults taking group selfie with tongues out

Developmental Themes

During this stage of life, young adults further develop their critical thinking skills, form relationships based on shared values and belief systems, modify their risk taking behaviors and make decisions based on future consequences. As mature adolescents move towards adulthood, these developmental themes emerge.

Physical Development

For many young adults, most of their physical development occurred during their younger years However, individuals who began puberty later in their adolescence may continue to see physical changes. During this stage, males may see their facial hair get thicker, and many young adults may still have acne.

Cognitive and Self Development

At this stage, young adults become more adept at complex thinking and can better integrate their emotions when making decisions. This is also a life phase where many individuals will experience a high sense of optimism as they embark on their journey to adulthood as they are often free from some of the parental, familial and school restraints they felt in adolescence.


Many young adults will find themselves facing some instability in this “in-between” period of their lives. They often feel that they are not yet an adult (many may still be in school instead of working full-time, others may be living at home while beginning their career path), however they also feel the pressure that comes with having more responsibilities and accountability than when they were adolescents. They may feel anxieties surrounding their place both socially with their peers and occupationally as they make big decisions about their future. It is a time to question what they want from work, school and love.


This is a time when there is often a shift in the types of relationships individuals have with their peers, parents and society. Romantic relationships are based more on shared belief systems and become more important as young adults emancipate further from their parents. Often risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse/use that they may have exhibited as teenagers will continue in early adulthood if their peer group remains constant.

Media and Young Adults

Media can be a wonderful and often necessary addition to the lives of young adults. Parents of young adults can help guide their child’s media choices by talking to them about the media they use and making them aware of what media, and how much media, are appropriate to live healthy, functional, adult lives.

Television and Movies

Encourage your family members to take up other hobbies that stimulate their minds and bodies, to help lessen the health effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

Talking about your favorite television shows and movies with your young adult can help foster family connectedness and keep the lines of communication open even through later adulthood. Holding movie nights or occasional TV viewing parties can be a great source of family time even when children live outside of the house.

Print Media

Young adults may spend a significant amount of time reading, especially if they are attending college, or reading for their job. Encourage your young adult to browse book lists, or get recommendations from friends and social groups to find titles of interest.


Many young adults listen to music through headphones or earbuds at an increased volume that could potentially cause permanent hearing damage. Teach your young adult that while the health effects may not be immediate, they should consider their long-term health when they set their music’s volume.

As with younger teens, listening to music is a common and useful way to regulate moods and emotions, and deal with stress.

Social Media

If you can, connect with your young adult on popular social networking sites and apps. Research shows that parents who friend their young adult children on social media may experience an improved parent-child relationship.

Social media has the potential to affect how young adults view risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking, and using drugs. College students who view alcohol-related content on their friends’ social networking profiles may view drinking as more normative.

Video Games

Video games labeled by the ESRB as “M 17+” (for everyone 17 and older) or “A Adults Only” may be appropriate for youth in this age range, however these games (and others) may contain violent imagery. There are a variety of challenging games that do not contain violence, so encourage your young adult to incorporate a balance of these types of games in their lives.

As with younger children, active video games, especially those that require a lot of movement, can help a young adult stay active and get exercise.

Unhealthy video gaming can develop into problematic interactive media use can lead to a variety of problems for young adults without professional help.

Mobile Media

Smartphones and other devices can allow you and your young adult to stay connected even from afar whether by calling, using video chat, apps or other social platforms.

Using a mobile phone while engaged in other activities, such as texting while driving or walking, can lead to injury and in some cases, death.

Computers and the Internet

As with other screen media, computers can impact a young adult’s mental health in a variety of ways, so encourage your young adult to have a media balanced life. If your college student is already dealing with mental health issues, such as ADHD or depression, they may be more likely to develop problematic interactive media use.

Young adults may attempt online dating for the first time by using apps or websites to meet potential partners. Although common today, online dating can have potential risks. Encourage your young adult to be self-aware when “meeting” people online, and to practice safety measures when meeting someone in person for the first time.


Developmental Themes Source: Developmental Themes Source: Behrman RE, Kliegman R, Schor NF, St. Geme JW, Stanton B, Nelson W. (2020). Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. Philadelphia, PA, Elsevier, Inc.

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