Psychologist Explores What Makes Children and Adults so Different

The childhood experience is often hailed as being one of the best components of a human life, and indeed, most people are able to recall rich, blissful memories from their younger years; memories which often take on new meaning as people age and mature. But some periods in childhood, and some individual circumstances, can be especially difficult, leading the mind to adapt in the most convenient or seemingly safe ways that it can. This adaptation can sometimes prove positive, but in many cases, it may lead to mental health difficulties that can carry into the sphere of adult life.

Recently, prominent psychologist Paul van Heeswyk explored the continuation of such difficulties into adulthood in a UK publication. Considering the manifestation of prejudices, unexamined preferences, and other potentially conflict-causing aspects of the mind and the personality, van Heeswyk expresses doubt over whether the state of being an adult is essentially so far removed from that of being a child when it comes to mental health. Of course, developmental differences are significant, particularly in terms of sexuality. But van Heeswyk suggests that it may be this distinct dividing line which, at least in terms of popular understanding, serves as the separation between childhood and adulthood.

The search for what makes people who they are must often also include an examination of how they operate within their roles; the state of being an adult may include issues of dedication and commitment, of responsibility, and of a certain level of the accumulation of knowledge. In his editorial, van Heeswyk touches upon each of these, noting their importance to the world of adults. But in the end, his piece suggests, mental health, and the lack thereof, can still cause people to feel and operate as children, whether for better or for worse.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Isabella


    August 28th, 2009 at 10:59 AM

    Childhood really can make or break us as adults. I’m so thankful most of my memories were those of bliss and good fun.

  • Gabriel


    August 28th, 2009 at 6:48 PM

    I know adults that have never grown up and children that are old beyond their years. Chronological age has nothing to do with maturity other than physical.

  • Cassie V.

    Cassie V.

    August 28th, 2009 at 6:55 PM

    That journalist makes adulthood sound depressing! Adulthood brings the joys of having your own family with it and shaping your child’s world. He’s forgetting the love that’s shared. Just because you get older you don’t have to lose your sense of playfulness.

  • Becky


    August 29th, 2009 at 4:17 PM

    We all do what we have to do to get through certain situations, no matter if we are children or whether we are adults. There may be huge age differences but in the end we are all looking for the ways that we need to safeguard our psyches and give ourselves inner peace. That much is always going to be true no matter our age. No one wants to have a crappy memory or experience so from a very early age we learn to sugar coat things and deal with situations in ways that make us feel safer and less threatened.

  • donna


    August 31st, 2009 at 2:01 AM

    long-standing memory is built in childhood and anything that happens in the formative years stays fresh in our memory. I still remember thinking that my grandpa’s bed was huge as a 4 year old. I didnt think the same thing when I saw it again at 14.

  • Ivana


    September 1st, 2009 at 4:19 AM

    hey I think all of us were dying to be 18 when we were 12!! C’mon people I dont think being an adult is that bad a deal. The key to keeping the kid inside alive is to stay happy on the outside.

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