Life span development
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Life Span Development. Developmental Psychology— The study of age-related changes in behavior and mental processes from conception to death. Major Issues. Nature vs. Nurture Maturation—development governed by automatic, genetically predetermined signals

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Life Span Development

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Life span development

Life Span Development

Developmental Psychology—The study of age-related changes in behavior and mental processes from conception to death.

Major issues

Major Issues

  • Nature vs. Nurture

    • Maturation—development governed by automatic, genetically predetermined signals

    • Critical Period—a period of special sensitivity to specific types of learning that shapes the capacity for future development

Major issues1

Major Issues

  • Continuity or Stages

    • Does development happen at a relatively uniform, continuous pace? Does adult thinking and intelligence differ from that of children only quantitatively?

    • Are there different periods of abrupt change and rapid growth alternated with periods of small change and little growth?

Major issues2

Major Issues

  • Stability or change

    • Do personal characteristics remain constant from infancy through adulthood?

    • Does personality change drastically over time?

  • Interactionist perspective

Research methods

Research Methods

  • Cross-sectional Method—research design that measures individuals of various ages at one point in time and gives information about age differences

  • Longitudinal Method—research design that measures a single individual or group of individuals over an extended period and gives information about age changes

Advantages disadvantages


Gives information about age differences


Less expensive

Typically larger sample

Cohort effects

Restricted generalizability


Gives information about age changes

Increased reliability

More in-depth information per participant

More expensive

Time consuming

Restricted generalizability


Culture and development

Culture and Development

  • Culture may be the most important determinant of development

  • Human development, like most areas of psychology, cannot be studied outside its sociocultural context

  • Each culture’s ethnotheories are important determinants of behavior

  • Culture is largely invisible to its participants

Physical development prenatal

Physical Development—Prenatal

  • Germinal Period—first stage of prenatal development that begins with conception and ends with implantation in the uterus

  • Embryonic Period—second stage of prenatal development that begins after uterine implantation and lasts through the eighth week

  • Fetal Period—third, and final stage of prenatal development characterized by rapid weight gain in the fetus and the fine detailing of body organs and systems

Prenatal development threats

Prenatal Development—Threats

  • Teratogen—environmental agent that causes damage during prenatal development—from the Greek teras meaning “malformation”

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)—a combination of birth defects, including organ deformities and mental, motor, and/or growth retardation, that results from maternal alcohol abuse

  • Other threats include malnutrition, stress exposure, exposure to X-rays, and diseases such as German measles (rubella), herpes, AIDS, etc.

Physical development early childhood

Physical Development—Early Childhood

  • Brain Development—by age 2

    • Brain and nervous system grow faster than any other part of the body

    • Brain is about 75% of its adult weight

    • Synaptic pruning and myelination occur

  • Motor Development

    • Child movement develops from reflex to walking

  • Sensory and Perceptual Development

    • Senses of smell and hearing are well developed by birth

    • Vision reaches near-adult level acuity by age 2

Physical development adolescence and adulthood

Physical Development—Adolescence and Adulthood

  • Adolescence—loosely defined period between childhood and adulthood—some cultures do not have this transitional period

    • Onset of Puberty—biological changes during adolescence that lead to an adult-sized body and sexual maturity

    • Primary sexual characteristics—i.e., development of sex organs, onset of menstruation, ejaculation, etc.

    • Secondary sexual characteristics—i.e., growth of facial and pubic hair, deepening of the voice, growth of breasts, etc.

Physical development adolescence and adulthood1

Physical Development—Adolescence and Adulthood

  • Middle Age—for women, primary physical development is menopause. For men, physical development is less obvious—decline in production of sperm and testosterone, weight gain, decline in sexual responsiveness, muscle strength and graying or loss of hair.

  • Late Adulthood—most changes are gradual and occur in cardiovascular system and sensory receptors

  • Ageism—prejudice or discrimination against an individual based on physical age.

Social emotional development

Social-Emotional Development

  • Attachment—a strong affectional bond with special others that endures over time.

    • John Bowlby—Attachment theory

  • Imprinting—an innate form of learning within a critical period that involves attachment to the first large moving object seen.

    • Konrad Lorenz—imprinting of baby geese

  • Harlow’s monkeys—contact comfort is a powerful contributor to attachment

Attachment levels

Attachment Levels

  • Mary Ainsworth,, studied levels of attachment by observing infants in the presence of their mother and a stranger

    • Securely attached—mother is safe base from which to explore the unknown

    • Avoidant—infant does not seek closeness or contact with the mother, treats mother much like a stranger, rarely cries when mother leaves the room

    • Anxious/Ambivalent—infant becomes very upset as mother leaves and seeks close contact when she returns, however, then squirms angrily to get away

Attachment problems disorders

Attachment Problems/Disorders

  • May exhibit the following characteristics: seldom cry, coo or babble, become rigid when picked up, few language skills

  • Social-emotionally—for shallow or anxious relationships, withdrawn, uninterested in caregivers OR insatiable need for affection

  • Intellectual, physical, and perceptual retardation; increased susceptibility to infection; isolation

Parenting styles

Parenting Styles

  • Permissive

    • Permissive-indifferent—sets few limits, little attention, interest or emotional support (children have poor self-control becoming demanding and disobedient)

    • Permissive-indulgent—highly involved but places few demands or controls on the child (children fail to learn respect for others becoming impulsive, immature and out of control

Parenting styles1

Parenting Styles

  • Authoritarian—rigid and punitive, value unquestioning obedience and mature responsibility while remaining aloof and detached. Children are easily upset, moody, aggressive, and generally have poor communication skills

  • Authoritative—tender, caring and sensitive but set limits and enforce them, encourage increasing responsibility. Children become self-reliant, self-controlled and high achieving. Also, more content, goal-oriented, friendly and socially competent

Parenting styles critique

Parenting Styles--critique

  • Child temperament—results may reflect child’s unique temperament—parents may develop style based on child’s behavior rather than vice versa

  • Child expectations—how the child expects parents to act may affect how s/he responds

  • Parental warmth—this may be the strongest factor regardless of parenting style—warmth vs. rejection.

Cognitive development

Cognitive Development

  • Schema—cognitive structures or patterns consisting of a number of organized ideas that grow and differentiate with experience

  • Assimilation—in Piaget’s theory, absorbing new information in to existing schemas

  • Accommodation—in Piaget’s theory, adjusting old schemas or developing new ones to better fit with new information

Piaget s stage theory of development

Piaget’s Stage Theory of Development

  • Sensorimotor Stage (birth to age 2 years)

  • Preoperational Stage (ages 2-7)

  • Concrete Operational Stage (ages 7-11)

  • Formal Operational Stage (ages 11 and up)

Sensorimotor stage

Sensorimotor Stage

  • First stage (birth to approximately age two) in which schemas are developed through sensory and motor activities

    • Object permanence—infant’s understanding that objects (or people) continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, heard, or touched directly

Preoperational stage

Preoperational Stage

  • Second stage characterized by the ability to employ significant language and to think symbolically, but the child lacks operations (reversible mental processes), and thinking is egocentric and animistic

    • Egocentrism—the inability to consider another’s point of view

    • Animism—the belief that all things are living (or animated)

Concrete operational stage

Concrete Operational Stage

  • Third stage in which the child can perform mental operations on concrete objects and understand reversibility and conservation, but abstract thinking is not yet present

    • Conservation—understanding that certain physical characteristics (such as volume) remain unchanged, even when their outward appearance changes

Formal operational stage

Formal Operational Stage

  • Fourth stage characterized by abstract and hypothetical thinking

    • Adolescents in early formal operational stage demonstrate a type of egocentrism

      • Personal fable—adolescents conclude that they alone are having certain insights or difficulties and that no one else would understand or sympathize—the rules don’t apply to them

      • Imaginary audience—adolescents picture all eyes focused on their behaviors

Critique of piaget s theory

Critique of Piaget’s Theory

  • Piaget underestimated the abilities of children when it comes to cognitive development

  • Piaget’s model, along with other stage theories, did not sufficiently take into account genetic and cultural differences

Information processing computer model

Information Processing (computer) Model

  • Compares the workings of the mind to that of a computer (remember encoding, storage, retrieval) focuses on areas of attention and memory

    • Attention span—as children develop cognitively, their attention span increases and they learn to discriminate between what is and is not important to concentrate on

    • Memory, like attention, increases through childhood and adolescence due to increased ability to use processing strategies

Moral development

Moral Development

  • Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development

  • Three Levels:

    • Preconventional Level—Kohlberg’ first level in which morality is based on rewards, punishment, and exchange of favors

    • Conventional Level—Kohlberg’s second stage where moral judgments are based on compliance with the rules and values of society

    • Postconventional Level—Kohlberg’s highest level in which individuals develop personal standards for right and wrong, and define morality in terms of abstract principles and values that apply to all situations and societies

Kohlberg s stages

Kohlberg’s Stages

  • Punishment-Obedience Orientation

  • Instrumental-Exchange Orientation

  • Good Child Orientation

  • Law-and-Order Orientation

  • Social-Contract Orientation

  • Universal Ethics Orientation

Carol gilligan s perspective

Carol Gilligan’s Perspective

  • Justice Perspective—Gilligan’s term for moral reasoning based on independence and individual rights

  • Care Perspective—Gilligan’s term for moral reasoning that emphasizes interdependence and interpersonal responsibility

Personality development

Personality Development

  • Temperament Theory

    • Temperament—an individual’s innate behavioral style and characteristic emotional response

      • Easy children—happy most of the time, relaxed and agreeable; adjust easily to new situations

      • Difficult children—moody, easily frustrated, tense and over reactive to most situations

      • Slow-to-warm-up children—mild responses, somewhat shy and withdrawn, and need time to adjust to new situations or people

Erikson s psychosocial theory

Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

  • Psychosocial Stages—Erikson’s theory that individuals pass through eight developmental stages, each involving a crisis that must be successfully resolved.

Erikson s stages 1 2

Erikson’s Stages 1 & 2

  • Trust vs. Mistrust (0-1)—Infants learn to trust that their needs will be met by the world, especially by the mother; if not, mistrust develops

  • Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt (1-3)—Toddlers learn to exercise will, to make choices, to control themselves, if not, they become uncertain and doubt that they can do things by themselves

Erikson s stages 3 4

Erikson’s Stages 3 & 4

  • Initiative vs. Guilt (3-6)—Preschool children learn to initiate activities and enjoy their accomplishments, if not, they feel guilty for their attempts at independence

  • Industry vs. inferiority (6-12)—Elementary school age children develop a sense of industry and learn productive skills their culture requires, if not, they feel inferior

Erikson s stages 5 6

Erikson’s Stages 5 & 6

  • Identity vs. Role Confusion (12-20)—Adolescents develop a coherent sense of self and their role in society or they face identity and role confusion

  • Intimacy vs. Isolation (20-30)—Young adults form intimate connections with others; if not, they face isolation and consequent self-absorption

Erikson s stages 7 8

Erikson’s Stages 7 & 8

  • Generativity vs. Stagnation (30-65)—Middle-aged adults develop concern for establishing, guiding, and influencing the next generation; if not, they experience stagnation (a sense of lifelessness)

  • Ego Integrity vs. Despair (65+)—Older people enter a period of reflection and life review. They either achieve a sense of integrity for the lives they’ve lived and accept death, or yield to despair that their lives cannot be relived

Grief and death

Grief and Death

  • Grief—a natural and painful reaction to a significant loss.

    • Four major stages: numbness, yearning, disorganization/despair and resolution.

  • Elizabeth Kübler-Ross proposed a five stage process of facing death

    • Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance

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