Intimacy and communication in emerging adulthood

The purpose of this study was to examine how emerging adults perceive and think about intimacy and communication in their dating and romantic relationships. The theory of emerging adulthood posits that two of Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development—identity vs. role confusion and intimacy vs. isolation—overlap during emerging adulthood, when individuals delay adult responsibilities to explore and establish their identities and opportunities for intimacy. It was hypothesized that emerging adults facing the intimacy crisis would be more focused on intimacy on measures assessing the importance of intimacy to relationships when compared with individuals in the identity crisis. The way emerging adults view communication in relationships was also explored, specifically looking at how the importance of communication relates to an emerging adults views on intimacy. Gender and gender role were also examined to determine if men and women in the emerging adulthood stage have differing views of intimacy and communication. The results of the study suggested that the focus of individuals’ dating goals is significantly different when compared with whether they are more focused on establishing identity or intimacy in their lives. No significant relationships were found between emerging adults’ current psychosocial crises and the importance of intimacy characteristics to their relationships or value they place on communication skills in relationships. Although no differences were found based on gender, the results indicated that gender role is correlated with the importance placed on characteristics of intimacy in relationships. An individual’s gender role also influenced the value placed on communication skills in a relationship, and a significant difference was found between those classified as androgynous and those with a masculine or undifferentiated gender role. Further research is needed to examine these findings within a larger, more generalizable sample.