Queen's University

Home > 

Typical Student Development



Psychological development

Intellectual development

Psychological Development of Late Adolescents and Young Adults

Chickering’s‭ ‬7‭ ‬Vectors of student development‭ (‬1993‭) ‬is‭ ‬based on the notion that development is a combination of internal maturation,‭ ‬appropriate challenges,‭ ‬and support from the environment.‭ ‬The model deals with self-identity and also establishing mature relationships and a personal value system.‭ ‬He strongly supports the notion of‭ “‬interdependence‭” ‬not‭ “‬individual independence‭” ‬as a psycho-social goal of development,‭ ‬which is useful in our international community in which some family structures may be more focused on collective‭ (‬rather than individualistic‭) ‬decision-making and action‭ ‬.‭ ‬Each vector involves developing a skill that answers a particular question and brings with it a sense of competence and confidence‭

Generally,‭ ‬in‭ ‬1st and‭ ‬2nd year among traditionally aged students‭ (‬17-19‭ ‬years‭) ‬and‭ young adult-aged students,‭ ‬the tasks are:

  • Developing competence:‭ (‬so that one can answer‭ “‬yes‭” ‬to the question:‭ “‬Can I do this‭?”
    Confidence in intellectual,‭ ‬physical and interpersonal areas allows one to take risks and thus continue growing,‭ ‬and is achieved through academic work involving critical thinking and acquiring knowledge,‭ ‬physical and sport activity,‭ ‬social communication among classmates,‭ ‬teams or friends.

  • ‬Managing emotions:‭ “‬How do I handle my feelings‭?”
    Managing emotions requires self-awareness of one’s emotions,‭ ‬developing positive or constructive ways of expressing or controlling them,‭ ‬and handling conflict.‭ ‬Development includes dealing with anxiety,‭ ‬sexual impulses,‭ ‬aggression,‭ ‬room-mate and other interpersonal issues and managing these feelings with optimism and courage.

  • Moving from autonomy towards interdependence:‭ “‬Can I shift focus from family to peers‭?”
    This stage focuses on development of emotional autonomy plus the recognition of one’s interdependence on others.‭ “‬Tasks‭” ‬include the decreased need for approval by others‭ (‬moving from family to peers to self‭) ‬and increased self-regulation.‭ ‬Usually the development includes the growth of independence and separation from family,‭ ‬growing self-direction,‭ ‬independent problem-solving,‭ ‬use of external resources followed by finding a middle ground allowing for interdependence on family and others.

  • Developing mature interpersonal relationships:‭ “‬Is there someone special for me‭?”
    Satisfying adult relationships require that one develops non-judgmental tolerance and acceptance of differences among people,‭ ‬and the capacity for openness,‭ ‬trust,‭ ‬and reciprocity in relationships.‭ ‬Skills include the ability to listen,‭ ‬understand and empathize without passing judgment,‭ ‬and attitudes include acceptance,‭ ‬respect for differences,‭ ‬and appreciation of commonalities.
‭ ‭

Generally,‭ ‬among‭ ‬3rd and‭ ‬4th year students,‭ ‬the developmental task focuses on:

  • Establishing identity:‭ “‬Who am I‭?”
    The ability to express a clear,‭ ‬realistic and consistent self-portrait results in the formation of a unique identity.‭ ‬This includes developing commitments regarding core characteristics,‭ ‬values,‭ ‬and roles that include gender roles,‭ ‬sexual orientation,‭ ‬racial identity,‭ ‬religious affiliation,‭ ‬disability identity,‭ ‬and more.‭ ‬Identity becomes evident in how one dresses,‭ ‬with whom one socializes,‭ ‬and how one chooses to live.‭

For many,‭ ‬the early adult years following graduation focus on:

  • Developing purpose‭ “‬Why am I here‭?”
    Discerning a sense of direction in relation to family,‭ ‬career,‭ ‬further study,‭ ‬lifestyle and a broader sense of one’s life-work may take several years.

  • Developing integrity‭ “‬Are my values,‭ ‬beliefs and actions aligned‭?”
    Mature adults have the ability to objectively resolve complex and conflicting issues in a manner congruent with their core values,‭ ‬and act accordingly.

‭ ‬Reference:‭ ‬Chickering,‭ ‬Arthur W.,‭ ‬and Reisser,‭ ‬Linda,‭ ‬Education and Identity,‭ ‬1993,‭ 2nd ed.,‭ ‬San Francisco:‭ ‬Josey-Bass



Intellectual Development in University Years

Perry‭ (‬1970‭) ‬focused on intellectual development during the college years among American male post-secondary students,‭ ‬and his research has since been expanded to include female students.‭ ‬The work allows faculty to understand the development of how the student learns,‭ ‬reasons and understands so that curriculum can be shaped accordingly.‭ ‬The ideas can be extrapolated to help parents understand the changing way in which their student will think and understand their world.

Generally,‭ ‬students engage in the following types of thinking as they proceed through university,‭ ‬and beyond:

In‭ ‬1st and‭ ‬2nd year dualistic thinking‭ (‬knowledge is absolute and knowable‭) ‬predominates.‭ ‬The discussions you have with your student may reveal fairly fixed attitudes and opinions,‭ ‬which reflect an‭ “‬all or nothing‭” ‬or‭ “‬right or wrong‭” ‬style of thinking.‭ ‬With practice,‭ ‬and feedback they will begin to develop more complex forms of thinking and understanding.

In‭ ‬3rd and‭ ‬4th year,‭ ‬multiplistic thinking is developing.‭ ‬This involves recognizing that knowledge is diverse and uncertain.‭ ‬Your student may express greater interest in viewing an issue from many perspectives,‭ ‬or be uncomfortable with the new notion of‭ “‬no single right way‭”‬.‭ ‬The deep questions of existence identified by Chickering suggest the ability of young people to engage in this complex,‭ ‬uncertain thinking.

Early in graduate school,‭ ‬students develop‭ ‬relativistic thinking‭ (‬contextual thinking‭) ‬in which circumstances take on greater importance than previously,‭ ‬and the merits of potentially opposing views can be evaluated.‭ ‬Discussions with your student may reveal thoughtful evaluation,‭ ‬including opinions‭ ‬that‭ ‬may differ from your own.‭

As a mature adult in the upper years of graduate school,‭ ‬or in the work-world,‭ ‬integrated thinking‭ (‬constructed knowledge‭) ‬may be achieved.‭ ‬The past experiences,‭ ‬personal awareness of priorities and values,‭ ‬and accumulated knowledge enable the individual to think in a rich and creative way and to accept the possibility of incomplete understanding.‭ ‬If the individual develops a world view or follows an approach to solving problems that is consistent with their beliefs,‭ ‬they demonstrate what Chickering refers to as integrity.