The risky fun in childhood and the change in adulthood

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Introduction 3

Situational adjustment theory 4

Children’s play in context 6

General discussion 8

The concept of adulthood 9

Change and personality 10

Social roles and social norms 12

Social expectations 14

Personality and behavior as determinants of risk in adulthood 15

Trait and adulthood 16

Conclusion 17

Bibliography: 20


As persons change from childhood to adulthood, there are specifictransitions that determine their behavior and characteristic. Thesetransitions, on the other hand, are guided by standards whichtogether form the basic principles of defining childhood andadulthood. According to psychologists, children have more liberty todo things that may be considered as risky by adults (Kaduson andSchaefer, 2012). On the other hand, as people mature, they restrainfrom certain engagements. Psychologists have also come up withexplanations for the behaviors of children and adults. For instance,Becker (1964) proposed a theory that explained the roots ofpersonality as they are shaped early adulthood and the change thattakes place later in life. This theory further suggested that humanbeings are guided by certain changing components of theirpersonality, which determine the way that human beings behave whenthey are children and how they do when they are adults. To add tothis, Becker suggested two main concepts to explain the perceivedchange to personality, which are situational adjustment andcommitment. At the same time, the social expectations in the societyare based on the theory of social roles and norms. This theory holdsthat people do not behave randomly, rather they respond to variousnorms hat are attributed to their social group. This essay uses thesocial adjustment and social expectation as found in the social rolesand norms to explore how they influence people as they transist fromchildhood, through youth to adulthood.

Of particular interest in the study of childhood and adulthood is therisky behavior that children are accustomed to when having fun.According to Oblinger (2010), fun is the enjoyment of activities forpleasure and leisure. In many cases, especially when considering thecase of children, fun can be impulses of enjoyment that are sporadicand sometimes unplanned for. This is the reason why fun, in thecontext of children, can be termed as risky (Averdjik, 2011).However, risky fun does not apply to children only. Some leisureactivities conducted by adults, such as binge drinking and skydiving,can equally be classified as risky. However, the main differencebetween the risky fun that children have and that which the adultshave is that the latter learn how to control the danger. Thesituational adjustment and social expectation concept form aframework that can be used to explain the sense of responsibilitywhich guides adults to control the risk that is associated with thekind of fun that they have. In this regard, the society expectsadults to take care of themselves, and to be more responsible for theactions that they take.

Situationaladjustment theory

Becker (1964) came up with the situational adjustment theory toexplain the perceived characterization of individuals in adulthood asa slight change to their childhood (Fingerman, 2010). As such, Beckerimplies that the roots of personality are traced back to thechildhood of a person, and the outward manifestation of the same inadults is a mere change due to certain factors. Every human being,according to this theory, is governed by certain elements that aredeeply rooted in their personality, and which thy have little controlover. However, according to Eysenck (2013), people do not maintainthe same characteristics as they become adults. The situationaladjustment theory backs this assertion by suggesting two componentsof the principle, which are the concept of situational adjustment andthe concept of commitment (Baltes and Schaie, 2013 and Eysenck,2013). According to the situational adjustment concept, an individualis likely to turn him or herself into a person a certain situationrequires them to (Akerlof and Schikller 102). These situations can beshape by factors such as the economy, education, social needs and soon, which have elements of desire that motivate that individual. Assuch, the person will adjust themselves to gain the perceived goodthings from that situation, hence, make adjustments to theirpersonality. However, the question that rises from this explanationis to whether the person’s changed personality will be evident onthe outside. According to Crawford and Krebs (2013), when peoplechange their desires, they are most likely to adjust their behaviorto fit the situation that they have put themselves into. Forinstance, if a child wishes to be praised in school for performingwell, he or she is most likely to join the groups of students wholike reading and doing academically progressive things, such as goingto the library. In turn, this child is likely to avoid things thatthey used to do before, such as avoiding school and hating class.According to Pratknas, Breckler and Greenwald (2014), such asbehavior can be summarized as the adoption of “habits andattitudes” so as to be accepted into the social group that onewishes to be recognized along with. This answers the question,meaning that situational adjustment can outwardly alter a person`sbehavior and characteristics.

Similarly,having adopted certain characteristics and changed attitude, a personwill find it difficult to escape from the same. According to Judah,Gardner and Aunger (2013), this is because people find themselvesbound and committed by other social factors, which define the “newthem”. This observation can be explained by the use of Becker’sconcept of commitment. According to Becker, a person can be observeto be committed to a certain line of consistency, which they feelthat it defines their new identities. For instance, as per theexample given above, a child who previously loathe school will beobserved to be consistently going to the library and attendingclasses. In the context of education, this can be summed up asacademic maturity. According to Becker’s argument, commitment ismaintained by the fruit of adjustment, the relationship that thechild forms with other children and the status that they willachieve, among other things. As they grow older, the children will beable to cope with the challenges of adjustment, hence, define theirmaturity. This concept is applicable to explaining the tendency ofchildren to drop habits that they come to learn to be detrimental totheir development as they age. For this reason, Carpenter (2013) saysthat children can be grouped into clusters with particular norms thatdefine them. One of the most consistent factor among these groups isage, which is also the key determinant between childhood andadulthood. The next section looks at children’s play in context,and how situational adjustment theory applies in explaining thetransition to adulthood.

Children’splay in context

Accordingto psychologist, fear is the negative experience that people avoid(Petty, Richard and Brinol (2010). However, the perception of fear asa negative experience is determined by a person’s age. For thisreason, Tang (2010) says that children do not understand the conceptof fear as adults do, and as such, they are most likely to engage indangerous activities more regularly. Shin and Liberzon (2010) contendthat one of the reasons why children do not comprehend fear as adultsdo is because they are more concerned with the joy that comesalongside the risky activities that they engage in. Psychologistshave developed six categories of risks which explain the reason whychildren are attracted to risky plays.

The first category is great heights. Children are thrilled by greatheights, such as trees, because it give them they joy of seeing faraway. The second category is rapid speeds. Children like playing onswings and riding bikes without breaks because they are moreattracted to the thrill of it, and care less about the dangersassociated. The third category is dangerous tools. Depending on thebackground of a child, they may play with dangerous tools and objectssuch as arrows and sharp objects, which places them on the way ofharm. The fourth category is dangerous elements, such as fire and hotwater. The fourth category is rough play, such as playful fights andwrestling. Finally, there is the thrill of getting lost, whichexplains why children derive joy from temporarily getting separatedfrom their peers when playing hide and seek.

These risky behaviors go on decreasing in terms of frequency as thechildren age, which is explained by the evolutionary value of riskyplay (Bachman et al., 2014). In an attempt to explain the affinity torisky play among young children, Zapolski et al (2010) pose thequestion that seeks to answer why risky play exists in the firstplace, and why it disappears as children age. From an evolutionaryperspective, natural selection has not erased the characteristic ofrisky play in children because the gains somehow outweigh the risks.According to a laboratory experiment, when subjects (rats) weredeprived of play, they were deprived of a critical phase of theirdevelopment in the social context (Holloway, 2004). For a controlexperiment, young rats were placed with older rats and allowed toplay. They were then put in a box with other older rats, and adifferent animal species. It was observed that the younger ratscontinued playing with the other animal, while the older ones avoidedcontact, out of fear. This observation contributed to the explanationof the emotion regulation of the theory of play. This theory explainswhy in risky play, young children dose themselves with certainamounts of risk that thy can manage. However, there reaches a pointwhere they begin understanding the danger of the risk they putthemselves in, when they pick injuries from play. These experiencesgather and finally, they form a psychological database in their mindsto characterize danger, and avoid it due to fear of harm. At the sametime, the children get to learn from adults, who according to theirjudgment, are more aware of poses danger and what does not. Thisobservation explains why older children are more likely to avoiddanger than the younger ones.

Usingthe principle of the six categories of fear discussed above, it ispossible to provide a chronological maturity cycle of a person fromthe time he or she was young, to adulthood. At about 5 years of age,children may take their bikes are ride speedily as they chase eachother. They are putting themselves art risk of injury from speeds,and at the same time, getting lost, as they do not have cellphoneswith them. At about 7 years of age, children may carry knives around,and pretend to be hunters as they look for animals to kill in theforest. This equally exposes them to danger of being hurt by theknives, or being attacked by animals. At about 10 years, the childrenengage in rough games such as wrestling as they emulate theirfavorite heroes. At about 12 years, children begin engaging in lessdangerous activities such as building controlled fires while on hike,as they have possibly learned the danger of being careless. It isevident that as children grow, they transits from dangerousactivities to less risky ones, perhaps due to the recognition of theharm that hey expose themselves to. Also, given that they have earnedsome trust from the adults all through, the children learn to controltheir behaviors, as they wish to be treated with respect from theadults. This change demonstrates the situational theory at play, asthe children transits into adolescence.


Fromthe discussion above, children do not consider the danger in theactivities that they engage in for fun. Beck et al. (2011) sought toexplain as to whether there are certain perceptual mental systemsthat explain the reason why children are thrilled by these riskyengagements. One possible explanation is that the children aremotivated to engage in the risky fun as they find no other substituteto derive joy from. From this observation, it is explainable that thechildren cannot engage in activities such as alcohol drinking andsky-diving, which are to a certain extent risky activities that theadult’s engage in. As such, the thrill of risky play outdoes theconsequences, and the children continue engaging in the activities upto a time when they realize the true bearing of the risk. At thispoint, the children begin avoiding risky activities, such as climbinghigh trees, probably out of past experiences of falling and gettinghurt.

According to Gardner (2011), it is at this point that children seeksubstitute activities to derive joy from. This way, they join theirolder peers, who have found other activities that they can derivehappiness from, and which are also less risky. As the situationaladjustment theory holds, human beings will slowly adapt into a systemor group that they would like to be identified with. This conceptexplains why children like playing in groups define by age.Observably, the older children engage in lesser harmful activities,as they are aware of the dangers associated with them. Over time, asthey age and learn more experiences, the children adapt to their newidentities, as explained by the concept of commitment. This conceptexplains personal consistency, which helps individuals to be morestable in the changing conditions. Going by this concept, thechildren’s attitude towards play and the idea of fun changessteadily, and begin exhibiting signs of maturity. According to Becker(1964), commitment is progressive, and the changes become permanent.This is used to explain why change in personality and attitude leadsto stabilization of an individual’s character, despite the factthat there are certain elements of personality that cannot be changedpermanently.

Theconcept of adulthood

Psychologists have spent considerable time and resources to study thetransition from childhood into adulthood. One of the revelations fromthese studies is that the transition is delicate and critical, andthat it happens sequences (Boakye-Boaten, 2010). According toLevinson’s Theory, there are approximately six critical stages thatshape the transitioning from adolescence to adulthood (Peltier(2011). The first stage is the most relevant to this study, whichLevinson calls early adult transition. This takes place as teenagersbegin learning experiences that classify adults and young people.During this stage, the young adolescents begin making basic decisionsabout things that directly affect them. This process majorly entailsmaking decisions about what makes them happy without causing harm tothem (Marlatt, Larimer and Witkiewitz, 2011). This defines the earlymaturity stage, where the young adolescents differentiate themselvesfrom children, and want to place themselves in the category ofadults. At this stage, the young adults avoid risky behaviors, suchas playing with objects that they are aware of the harm that they cancause to them and to those around them. Roback (2013) makes anobservation that individuals undergo personal adjustments as theyconfigure their characters. To attain the qualifications ofadulthood, the young adolescents commit to consistencies thatcharacterize their new personalities, and abandon behaviors that aremore characteristic of childhood. It is at this point that the youngadolescents begin acting as per the requirements of the society onthem as adults. The section below about the social roles and normsexplains the social expectation principle and how it applied intransiting children into young adults.

Changeand personality

In the situational adjustment theory, the elements of continuity,consistency and commitment explain how change happens and why itremains so. As young teenagers transform into young adults, they areconsistently committed to keeping up with the ways of the adults, anddropping childish behaviors (Dwaity, 2010). As earlier explained, therate of risky child play decrease, as the young adults begin becomingmore responsible for themselves. According to Hussain (2012), thematuring individuals become more bureaucratic as they identify moreand more with the adult roles, to an extent that they make somesacrifices in other areas, especially fun. The degree and type ofcommitment range, and it explains the difference in maturity indifferent people (Gibbs et al., 2013). In the same regard, while someindividuals are more concerned with inner satisfaction as adults,many are compelled to prove to others that they have indeed matured.

Giventhe different rate of maturity in individuals, there arelongitudinal, horizontal and sectional features that definecharacterization (Tyler, 2012 and Jackson, 2012). Similarly, thereare some elements of choice within individuals, which equallydetermines the level of maturity. However, Tyler (2010) says thatthis is a choice that is made consistently in light of variouscircumstances. These choices form the essence of situationaladjustment as, Becker put it. Moreover, a strong influence on thepersonality is the culture within which an individual is brought up.Culture is also an important factor in determining personality(Diaz-Guerrero, 2014). Some cultures influence faster rates ofmaturity and transformation into adulthood. For instance, indigenouspeoples are accustomed to well-defined cultural practices, which needyoung children to be initiated into adulthood at tender ages(Kitayama and Cohen, 2010). On the other hand, civilized, or urbancultures, have more relaxed or no initiation procedures, meaning thatthe individuals transit into maturity at a slower rate. However,Kalantiz, Cope and Noble (2012) that Becker’s theory rescues theconcept of adulthood from personality fixation. On this note, therecan be strategic compliance and internalized adjustment (Vyse, 2013and Smith, 2011). Education psychologists have used these viewpointsto study the process of teachers’ adaptation. In application toexplaining personalities as maturity kicks in, they provide a modelto explain the characterization of personality over time. In a youngadolescent offends some basic parts of the principles, they find itdifficult to live up to the label of adulthood. As such, all peopleendeavor to establish themselves as committed adults, and developtheir personalities to fit the description of mature human beings.

Socialroles and social norms

Inpsychology, social role theory recognizes the historical perceptionof the roles that adults play in the society (Ickes and Knowles,2012). As a consequence of age, there are commitments to adulthood,whereby people are expected to drop childish behaviors and take uproles that define them as adults. At this point, the expectancies ofyoung people and adults diverge, and there emerges a clear line inthe way that these two distinct groups conduct themselves. Theseexpectancies have been passed from generation to generation as manundergoes evolution, and to a larger extent, they have remainedconsistent. Akaka and Chandler (2011) suggest that these arestereotypes that guide the way that people of a certain age aresupposed to conduct themselves, and how they are supposed to assumetheir social roles. For instance, to conform to these expectations,male adults develop traits that are indicative of agency (Hess etal., 2010). These traits include the tendency to be independent,competent and insistent. In this case, male adults learn to be moreaggressive with their decisions, unlike the way they were when theywere small boys. On the other hand, females develop sense of domesticresponsibility, while they prepare to take up the roles of theirmothers. By this, they drop behaviors that characterize youngimmature girls.

Psychologistsidentify two process that fortify the association betweenexpectancies and characterization. According to Bott and Spillus(2014), as people mature, they pick up gender oriented skills throughthe socialization process. It is important to remember that as kids,boys and girls played indiscriminately. Social roles, though thesocialization process, explain the disparities in adulthood.According to Csikszentmihalyi (2014), besides the socialexpectations, figures of authority, such as teachers and parents,encourage individuals to develop characteristics that define them asadults. Likewise, gender plays a key role in determining the kind ofsocial roles that the young adults take up. In this whole process,the young adults drop childish behaviors, which are characterized byindiscriminate play (as occurs in dangerous fun), and become moreresponsible for the actions that they take.

Psychologistshave used the concept of social norms to explain the observedregularity in the process of transitioning into adulthood (Ostrom,2014). In general, social norms the rule of behavior that areconsidered to be acceptable by a certain groups or society (Bott,2014). There is a certain degree of conformity to social norms whichguide people in their path to growing into adults, and to leavebehind elements that define them as children. Age differentiation isone of the key elements of social norms, as it determine the sharedexpectations that apply to people at certain ages. The social normsare assumed to support informal sanctions, for instance, when roletransition comes in too late (Reed et al., 2010). In this regard,people who do not conform to certain social norms that define theirgroups, in this case, adults, may suffer some kind of consequences.The consequences may be failure to be accepted as an adult. For thisreason, social norms shape members of the group (adults) intodropping certain characteristics, and conducting themselves as adultsamong their peers.

Socialnorms create the foundation for correction and modification ofpersonalities (Binmore, 2010). By doing this, they give individuals achance to adapt themselves into the cocoon of adulthood, andpurposefully abandoning childish behaviors, which are shunned by thesocial norms of adults. For instance, it is customary for adults totake their time to think through things before making a decision. Inthe process of thinking through and weighing the options, the adultsmake decisions that eliminate immature options. Going per thisprinciple, the newly maturing people learn to avoid dangerous play,and transform into adulthood. Through this, they develop a culturethat guides their decisions in the future, and as such, identifythemselves with the groups of adults. The social roles and socialnorms theories form the basis of the principle of socialexpectations.


Socialroles and social norms lay the foundation for conceptualizing socialexpectations. According to the concept of social roles, men and womenhave different roles that they take up as they become of age. Aswell, social norms lay out the conditions for someone to be acceptedas an adult. With these two, the concept of social expectationsemerges, which defines that the society expects someone whoidentifies himself or herself as an adult to do. According to Baltesand Schaie (2013), age stereotypes are made up to influence aperson’s personality development. Under the same framework,psychologists identify elements that summarize what an adult isexpected to do, and how they are supposed to conduct themselves.

Inthe context of fun, the concept of social expectations holds thatadults are expected to engage in less risky play. The reason behindthis is that they have developed a sense of what is wrong and what isright, in terms of posing danger to themselves and to those aroundthem. One of the groundings of social roles is responsibility (Bott,2014). Responsibility is viewed as the obligation to ensure that thedecisions taken by adults are carefully thought through and evaluatedso to come up with logical decisions. This underpinning does nothowever rule out the fact that adults do engage in potentiallydangerous plays. For instance, some adults find it fun to engage inhigh-speed sports like boat speeding, or dangerous engagements likebinge drinking. These types of fun pose danger to the people that areengaging in them. Some of the consequences are bodily harm, or evendeath. In many cases, high-speed boat riders have crashed andsustained serious injuries, with some dying. At the same time, someyoung adult women have ended up being raped because of engaging inuncontrolled binge drinking. With these examples, it is evident thatthe there is more to social expectations that explains why adults mayengage in risky behaviors, which are as dangerous as children’srisky play.

Personalityand behavior as determinants of risk in adulthood

With the observation made above, it is presumed that personality andbehavior are determinants of risk fun in adulthood. Deci and Ryan(2012) assert that throughout the development stage, each individualpicks up a personality that defines them, and differentiates themfrom the rest. According to the research by Roberts and Mroczek(2009), longitudinal and cross-sectional aging determine thepersonality trait into adulthood. There is an aspect of mean-levelchange, which determines the level of self-confidence andself-control in people. While some people have higher levels ofself-confidence, some are laid back and need more motivation toengage in certain activities. Even among children, the level of riskthat children expose themselves to is a function of their confidencelevels. According to Rothbart (2011), changes in self-confidence andself-control predominate in young adulthood, which ranges from about20 years to 40 years. It is not up to the later adulthood stages thatthere is a significant change in these traits of personality.

When evaluating characterization in terms of personality change,every individual demonstrates a unique pattern of development as theyenter maturity. Similarly, these patterns become the key determinantsof a person’s personality, and as such, the kinds of activitiesthat they engage in. However, in average, through the factor ofself-control, adults are able to keep their self-confidence in check.This measure is what prevents them from engaging in risky fun withoutself-protection. As such, adults recognize the limits to which theycan engage in certain activities, and safety controls that they putin place to guarantee their well-being. This, alongside theexpectation from the society to be more mature, is what makes itseldom for adults to engage in risky fun.

Traitand adulthood

Psychologistshave described traits, which are variables that account for personaldifferences (Buss and Plomin, 2014). These traits include liveliness,anxiety, intelligence and courage, among many others. These traitsdevelop from an earlier age, are the determinants of an individual’scharacter as he or she ages. According to the argument by Heineck andAnger (2010), cardinal traits are the determinants of a person’sbehavior in later ages. These cardinal traits are those that are moreascribed than the rest, and are the basis upon which differentpersonalities are distinguished. As people age, there are certainfactors that define their personalities in adulthood. These includeconsciousness, extraversion, introversion, agreeableness andneuroticism (Wilson, Fornasier and White, 2010). Trait theorist haveused these factors to explain the stability in personality as aperson ages. Despite that fact that adults ascribe to certain socialnorms, it is not possible to have everyone behaving the same way.With this observation, whether personality traits continue in lateradulthood or not becomes a question of self-enduring. A completeunderstanding of personality and continuity through examination ofindividuals is what lays the foundation for understanding thepreference of some adults to engage in childish behaviors. However,some individuals, who are considered as adults because of their age,may suffer from mental conditions that may make them carry on traitsthat characterize them as children. This group forms an exception forthe purposes of this paper. Otherwise, adults have the ability tocontrol their engagement in risky fun, which sets the differencebetween the fun that children have and that which adults have in thispaper. Traits do play a role in determining personality in adulthood,and as such, determining the type of fun that individuals engage in.


The difference between childhood and adulthood is pronounced. Aspeople grow into adulthood, they change in terms of personality andcharacter, which forms the basis of differentiating children andadults. There are certain standards and principles that define thetwo sets of ages. Psychologists have explained these standards andprinciples by using various theories. This paper has looked at two ofthese theories. The first one was proposed by Becker in 1964, whichexplained the roots of personality and how they influence thecharacterization of individuals. This theory is known as thesituational adjustment theory. Going by the teachings of this theory,the paper has shown that people learn how to behave in certain waysin order to fit the situation they are in. From the discussion, thepaper has also shown why this theory is applied in explaining whychildren have certain sets of behaviors that are different from theadults. The theory is supported by the concepts of situationaladjustment and the concept of commitment. According to the concept ofsituational adjustment, individuals behave in a ways to place themcomfortably within the situation that they find themselves in, whilethe concept of commitment holds that personal consistency is appliedto attain stability within a certain situation.

Thepaper has explained the reason why children’s play is quitedangerous. Children are likely to engage in dangerous fun, as theyhave no capacity to weigh out options that are safer for them.Lacking the capacity to take care of their safety is due to the lackof experience. While children engage in dangerous fun, they get tolearn from experiences after hurting themselves or getting to learnabout the danger that they expose themselves to from others. Withthis information, children get to engage in lesser dangerousactivities as they age. The paper has described the six differentcategories of dangerous fun and how children get to learn from theirexperiences as they age. The situational adjustment theory explainshow they commit to taking care of themselves as they learn about theimpending danger, and slowly mature as they approach their teenageyears. As such, children turn themselves into the kind of people thatthe situation they are in demands. However, they are yet to learnabout taking responsibility of themselves as they age. It is notuntil they become of age that the theory of social roles and socialnorms is used to explain their more mature approach to fun, play andresponsibility.

The social expectation theory is based on two main principles. Theseare social norms and social roles. Psychologists explain that humanbeings learn about the roles that they are supposed to take up in thesociety when they become of age. At the same time, there are socialnorms that categorizes people into groups that are expected tosatisfy certain conditions, such as responsibilities and tasks. Withsocial norms and social roles, every person, to be considered as anadult, is expected to behave in a certain way. In the context of thispaper, the social expectations of adults is to behave maturely andtake more responsibility. This explains why adults engage in lessrisky fun as they age, because they are expected to take care ofthemselves. However, there are some adults that still do engage indangerous activities. This character is explained by personality andbehavior, which are determinants of risky fun in adulthood.Individuals have personalities that distinguish the from the rest. Atthe same time, individuals have traits from childhood that arecarried on into adulthood. These explain the difference in behaviorin adults. However, all adults are able to control themselves, andtake measures to ensure their safety even when engaging in risky fun.With this explanation, the paper has demonstrated how the situationaladjustment theory and the social expectation theories explains thedifference between risky fun in childhood and the change inadulthood.


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