Independence is the most critical stage of the family life cycle. As you enter young adulthood, you begin to separate emotionally from your family. During this stage, you strive to become fully able to support yourself emotionally, physically, socially, and financially. You begin to develop unique qualities and characteristics that define your individual identity.
Intimacy is a vital skill to develop during your independent, young adult years. Intimacy is the ability to develop and maintain close relationships that can endure hard times and other challenges. In an intimate relationship, you learn about:
- Commonality or similarity.
- Dependence on another person who is not in your family.
- Shared emotion in a relationship.
You also learn who you are outside of your identity within your family. Your ability to develop an intimate relationship depends on how successful you were at developing your individual identity earlier in life.
If you are a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered person (LGBT), this stage may include making your sexual orientation known, or "coming out" to your family and friends.
Exploring interests and career goals is part of developing independence. To live successfully away from your family, you must develop financial and emotional independence.
You also begin to be responsible for your own health in this stage. You become responsible for your nutritional, physical, and medical needs. Developing healthy habits at this time-such as good nutrition, regular exercise, and safer sex practices-is important for lifelong good health and happiness.
You learn new aspects of independence throughout your lifetime. Even when you have moved on to another stage of life, such as coupling, you continue to learn independence within the context of that stage.
During the independence stage, you hope to:
- Learn to see yourself as a separate person in relation to your original family-parents, siblings, and extended family members.
- Develop intimate peer relationships outside the family.
- Establish yourself in your work or career.
Other important qualities you develop during this phase include:
- Work ethic.
- Identity, or who you are in the world.