Adult Learner

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Emotions are complex psychological states stemming from a person's experiences. They affect our minds and bodies, and can support or hinder learning. Engagement in adult learning has the potential to have a positive impact on an adult's emotional well-being and life satisfaction.

Main Ideas

By adulthood, most learners are able to understand their own and others' complex Emotions, however some adults, such as those with ADHD may have more difficulty recognizing emotions in others. Cultural and family diversity can impact how emotions are expressed and recognized in others. There are several additional aspects of Emotion that can interact with adult learning.

  • Emotion regulation is the ability to control positive and negative emotional arousal to function adaptively (e.g., complete daily tasks, cope with changes in the environment), supports mental health, and is an important aspect of social competence. Adults tend to engage in emotion regulation strategies that maintain higher levels of positive emotions and limit negative experiences.
  • Mental health is the combination of our emotional and psychological well-being and adjustment. Emotions are dynamic and fluctuate over time, so it is normal to experience both positive and negative emotions. Individual variability such as learning disability, race, gender, and their intersectionality can contribute to risk for depression and anxiety, and the prevalence of mental illness symptoms is lower in older adults than younger adults.

Emotion regulation is critical to managing the stressors of adulthood, particularly for adult learners who may have greater stress due to family, job, and career obligations, poverty, and other trauma. Adults with ADHD may have particular difficulties with emotion regulation. Negative prior experiences in school, overall or with particular content such as math or reading, or experiences with learning disabilities, can cause anxiety and negatively impact emotional well-being. Conversely, positive experiences and accomplishments as adult learners can help support greater emotional well-being, especially when adults are engaged and enjoy their learning experience. Adults who tend to experience more positive than negative emotions overall, and who are able to successfully manage and minimize stress, will have better general psychological well-being.

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