2110 3.0 H (Fall Term)
Definition of Development
The pattern of movement or change that begins at
conception and continues through the human life span
Why Study Life-Span Development?
You can gain insight to your own life as a child,
adolescent, and young adult.
You will learn about life through the adult years—
middle age, and old age.
You may be a parent or a teacher some day.
Life-span development is linked with many different
areas of psychology.
Assumptions influence practices
Original Sin - children were perceived as being
basically bad, born into the world as evil beings.
Tabula Rasa - children are like a “blank tablet,” and
acquire their characteristics through experience.
Innate Goodness - children are inherently good.
Where do our assumptions come from?
Aristotle (384-322 BCE)
Young Men: “Young men have strong passions, and
tend to gratify them indiscriminately”
Elderly Men: “They are cynical … small-minded,
cowardly, and are always anticipating danger …they
love life; and all the more when their last day has come
Men in their prime: “all the valuable qualities that
youth and age divide between them are united in the
prime of life .. the body is in its prime from thirty to
five-and-thirty; the mind about forty-nine”
Charles Darwin (1809-1882): “A Biographical Sketch
of an Infant” (1877)
G.S. Hall (1844-1924): “Adolescence” (1907):”Most
savages in most respects are children, or, because of
sexual maturity, more properly, adolescents of adult
Traditional Approach vs. Life-Span Approach
The traditional approach emphasizes extensive change
from birth to adolescence, little or no change in
adulthood, and decline in late old age.
The life-span approach emphasizes developmental
change during adulthood as well as childhood.
Characteristics of the Life-Span Perspective
Development is lifelong
Development is multidimensional
Development is multidirectional
Development is plastic
Development is contextual
Development is studied by a number of disciplines
Development involves growth, maintenance, and
Development is Lifelong
No age period dominates development.
Researchers increasingly study the experiences
and psychological orientations of adults at
different points in their development.
Development is Multidimensional
There are biological dimensions.
There are cognitive dimensions.
There are socioemotional dimensions.
Development is Multidirectional
Some dimensions or components of a dimension
increase in growth.
Some dimensions or components of a dimension
decrease in growth.
Development is Plastic
Plasticity involves the degree to which characteristics
change or remain stable.
Development is Contextual
Normative age-graded influences
Normative history-graded influences
Nonnormative life events
Development is Studied by a Number of Disciplines
The Three Goals of Human Development
Involve changes in the individual’s physical nature
Height and weight gains
The development of the brain
Changes in motor skills
Involve changes in the individual’s thought,
intelligence, and language such as:
Watching a mobile swing above a crib
Creating a two-word sentence
Memorizing a poem
Imagining being a movie star
Involve changes in the individual’s relationships
with other people, changes in emotions, and
changes in personality such as:
An infant smiling from her mother’s touch
A young boy hitting a playmate
A girl’s joy at her senior prom
The affection of an elderly couple
Periods of Development
The prenatal period
Middle and late childhood
The Prenatal Period
The time from conception to birth
From a single cell to an organism complete with
a brain and behavioral capabilities
Approximately a 9-month
The developmental period from birth to 18 or 24
A time of extreme dependency on adults
Many psychological activities are just beginning
The developmental period extending from the end
of infancy to about 5 or 6 years
Often called the “preschool years”
Children learn to become more self-sufficient
Children now develop school readiness skills
Children spend many hours playing with peers
Middle and Late Childhood
The developmental period extending from about 6 to 11
years of age
Approximately corresponds to the elementary school
Fundamental skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic
Child is formally exposed to larger world and its
The developmental period of transition from childhood
to early adulthood—entered at 10-12 years, ending at
Begins with rapid physical changes.
Pursuit of independence and identity are prominent
Thought is now more logical, abstract, and idealistic
The developmental period beginning in the late teens or
early twenties and lasting through the thirties
A time of establishing personal and economic
Also a time of career development
Early adults select a mate, start a family, and rear
The developmental period beginning around 40 years of
age and extending to about 60
A time of expanding personal and social involvement and
Also a time of assisting the next generation in becoming
Middle adults reach and maintain satisfaction in a career
The developmental period beginning in the
sixties or seventies and lasting until death
A time of adjustment to decreasing strength and
Also a time of life review, retirement, and new
Age Groups in Late Adulthood
The Young Old, or Old Age (65-74 years of age)
The Old Old, or Late Old Age (75 years and older)
The Oldest Old (85 years and older)
Age and Happiness
No particular age group says they are happier or more
satisfied than any other age group.
Conceptions of Age
The number of years that have elapsed since a person’s
A person’s age in terms of biological health
An individual’s adaptive capacities compared to those
of other individuals of the same chronological
Refers to social roles and expectations related to a
Nature vs. Nurture
Continuity vs. Discontinuity
Stability vs. Change
Activity vs. passivity
Universal vs. particular
The Nature-Nurture Issue
Involves the debate about whether development is
primarily influenced by nature or nurture
An organism’s biological inheritance
An organism’s environmental experiences
The Continuity-Discontinuity Issue
This issue focuses on the extent to which development
involves gradual, cumulative change or distinct stages.
Development results from a gradual process occurring
over several weeks, months, and possibly years.
Development occurs through a sequence of stages in
which change is qualitatively rather than quantitatively
The Stability-Change Issue
This issue involves the degree to which we
become older renditions of our early experience
or whether we develop into someone different
from who we were at an earlier point in
It considers the extent to which early
experiences (especially in infancy) or later
experiences are the key determinants of a
Evaluating the Developmental Issues
Most life-span developmentalists recognize that
extreme positions are unwise.
The key to development is the interaction of nature and
nurture rather than either factor alone.
There still exists strong debate regarding how strongly
development is influenced by each of the factors.