In this unit, we learned about Erikson’s sixth psychosocial stage, intimacy versus isolation. Erikson said that people need “concrete affiliations and partnerships,” and yet fewer young adults today are getting married or becoming parents, compared to generations before. Based on your understanding of cognitive, emotional and social characteristics of young adults, why are their intimacy needs so strong? Despite strong needs for intimacy, why do you think fewer are marrying?
According to Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, the sixth stage, which occurs during young adulthood, is characterized by the conflict between intimacy and isolation. Erikson believed that individuals in this stage have a strong need for “concrete affiliations and partnerships.” However, in recent times, it has been observed that fewer young adults are getting married or becoming parents compared to previous generations. This raises the question of why the need for intimacy is still strong while the inclination towards marriage and parenthood is decreasing. In order to address this question, it is essential to consider the cognitive, emotional, and social characteristics of young adults in today’s society.
During young adulthood, individuals typically experience cognitive growth and the development of a mature sense of self. They become more capable of forming their own identities and making independent decisions. These cognitive changes contribute to an increased understanding of their own needs, including the need for intimacy. Young adults seek to establish meaningful emotional connections and build relationships based on mutual trust and understanding. The desire for intimacy serves as a source of validation and fulfillment, as it allows individuals to experience emotional closeness, shared experiences, and support.
Young adulthood is also a period characterized by significant emotional shifts. Individuals in this stage often experience a wide range of emotions, from excitement and enthusiasm to insecurity and anxiety. The need for intimacy and companionship can act as a buffer against feelings of loneliness and isolation. Relationships provide young adults with emotional support, a sense of belonging, and the opportunity for emotional growth and self-reflection. The pursuit of intimacy serves as a means of emotional regulation, fulfilling the need for love and acceptance.
In addition to cognitive and emotional factors, societal changes have had a significant impact on the choices young adults make regarding marriage and parenthood. In recent times, there has been a shift in societal norms and expectations, with an increasing emphasis on individualism and personal fulfillment. The traditional paths of marriage and parenthood are no longer seen as the only means to achieve a fulfilling and meaningful life. Young adults today are more likely to prioritize personal goals, education, career advancement, and self-exploration over settling down and starting a family.
Increased educational opportunities and career options have also contributed to the delay in marriage and parenthood. Young adults may choose to focus on their education and career development during this stage, wanting to establish a strong foundation before committing to a long-term relationship or having children. The pursuit of personal and professional goals becomes a priority, leading to a hesitation or delay in entering into a committed partnership.
Furthermore, societal changes have also influenced the perception of marriage and commitment. There is a greater acceptance of different types of relationships, such as cohabitation or being in long-term committed partnerships without formal marriage. Many young adults now prioritize the quality of their relationships rather than conforming to traditional societal expectations.
In conclusion, the need for intimacy remains strong among young adults due to cognitive, emotional, and social factors. However, the decrease in the inclination towards marriage and parenthood can be attributed to various societal changes. These include a focus on personal goals and self-fulfillment, increased educational and career opportunities, and changing perceptions of relationships and commitment. It is important to consider these factors when examining the choices young adults make in regards to their intimate relationships and life paths.