Chapter 1: Introduction
What Is Life-Span Development? • A pattern of change involving growth and decline, beginning at conception and lasting until death. • Life phases: infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood.
The Historical Perspective: • Childhood has been of interest for a long time. • Adulthood became of interest in the late 1900s. • Three philosophical views of child development: • 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. • Childhood is seen as a special time of growth and change, influenced by child-rearing practices, childhood experiences, and environmental influences.
Characteristics of the life-span perspective: • Development is lifelong • No age period dominates development. • Biological, cognitive, and socioeconomic dimensions of experiences and psychological orientation are very important to study.
Development is multidimensional: age, body, mind, emotions, and relationships are affecting and changing each other. • Biological processes involve changes in the individual’s genes, brain development, height and weight gains, changes in motor skills, hormonal changes, cardiovascular decline. • Cognitive processes involve changes in the individual’s thought intelligence, and language. • Socioemotional processes involve changes in the individual’s relationships with other people, changes in emotions, and changes in personality.
Developmental Changes Are a Result of Biological, Cognitive, and Socioemotional Processes Biological processes Socioemotional processes Cognitive processes Figure 1.6
Development is multidirectional: some aspects of dimensions shrink and some expand. The processes are fluctuating. • Development is plastic: it has the capacity for change. How well we adapt to change/our flexibility. • Development is multidisciplinary: it is of interest to: • Psychologists. • Sociologists. • Anthropologists. • Neuroscientists. • Medical researchers.
Development is contextual: a person acts on and responds to contexts such as: • Sociocultural and environmental experiences. • Historical circumstances. • Life events or unusual circumstances impacting on the specific individual.
Three Sources of Contextual Influences • Normative age-graded influences are biological and environmental influences that are similar for individuals in a particular age group. e.g. puberty/adolescence • Normative history-graded influences are common to people of a particular generation because of the historical circumstances they experience. e.g. weather (draught), wars • Nonnormative life events are unusual occurrences that have a major impact on an individual’s life. The occurrence, pattern, and sequence of these events are not applicable to many individuals. e.g. moving, divorce
Development involves growth, maintenance, and regulation of loss. • Development is a co-construction of biology, culture, and individual factors all working together.
Contexts A context is the setting in which development occurs. This setting is influenced by historical, economic, social, and cultural factors. • Culture • Cross-cultural studies • Ethnicity • Socioeconomic status • Gender • Social Policy • Generational inequity
Concerns • Health and well-being influenced by behavior and psychological states • Parenting – family function is influenced by various issues (e.g. day care, working parents, divorce, etc.) • Education is influenced by various issues.
73 Children Exposed to Six Stressors Poor housingquality 49 Excessive noise 45 Crowding Exposure to violence 32 Child separation Family turmoil 24 21 16 14 Percentage 12 7 3 Poor children Middle-income children Figure 1.5
Periods of development focus on time frames: • Prenatal period. • Infancy. • Early childhood. • Middle and late childhood. • Adolescence. • Early adulthood. • Middle adulthood. • Late adulthood.
How important is age? • Age and Happiness • No specific age group reports more happiness or satisfaction than another, because each age period has its own stresses, advantages, and disadvantages; for example: • Adolescents must cope with identity development, feelings of competency, and self-perceptions. • Older adults must cope with reduced income, less energy, decreasing physical skills, concerns about death, more leisure time, and accumulation of life experiences.
Age and Happiness 100 Happy people (%) 80 60 40 20 0 15-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65 + Age range (years) Figure 1.9
Conceptions of age • Perhaps we are becoming an age-irrelevant society. • How should age be conceptualized? • Chronological age. • Biological age. • Psychological age. • Social age. • How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?
Number of years since birth Chronological age Age in terms of physical health Biological age Conceptions of age Adaptive capacity compared with others of the same chronological age Psychological age Social roles and expectations relative to chronological age Social age Figure 1.10
Nature versus nurture: • A debate about whether development is influenced most by biological heredity or environmental experiences. • Nature proponents argue that genetic blueprints produce commonalities in growth and development. • Nature proponents acknowledge the influence of extreme environments on development. • Psychologists emphasize the importance of nurture and that the range of environments can be vast.
Stability and change: • The assumption that nothing much changes in adulthood. • The concept of plasticity, ongoing change. • Major changes were believed to occur only in the first 5 years of childhood (early experience doctrine); we are no longer able to ignore the rest of the life span. • There is still a lot of controversy over both sides of this issue.
Continuity and discontinuity: • The continuity–discontinuity issue focuses on whether development is • A gradual, cumulative quantitative change process or • A set of distinct stages that are qualitatively different from each other
Discontinuity Continuity and Discontinuity in Development Continuity Figure 1.11
Evaluating the Issues • Extreme positions on nature-nurture, stability-change, and continuity-discontinuity issues are unwise. • But spirited debate among developmental psychologists continue in context of important issues such as, gender differences in math skills, memory changes in old age, and how to remediate negative childhood experiences. • We will explore many such issues in this class.