PSYC 2450 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Idiopathy, Heredity, Philosophical Perspectives

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Chapter 1 - Textbook Notes
Introduction to Developmental Psychology & Its Research Strategies
Development refers to systematic continuities and changes in the individual that
occur between conception and death
“systematic” meaning orderly, patterned, and relatively enduring
Continuities; meaning the ways in which we remain the same or continue to
reflect our past
Developmental Psychology: Branch of psychology devoted to identifying and
explaining the continuities and changes that individuals display over time
Developmentalist: any scholar who seeks to understand the developmental
What Causes Us to Develop?
Maturation: developmental changes in the body or behaviour that result form the
aging process rather than from learning, injury, illness, or some other life
o Capable of walking at 1 year; capable of sexual maturity at 15-16
One reason that we humans are so similar in many important respects is that our
common species heredity guides all of us through many of the same
developmental changes at about the same points in our lives
Learning: relatively permanent change in behaviour (or behaviour potential) that
results from one’s experiences or practice
We often learn to feel, think, and behave in new ways from our observations of
and interactions with parents, teachers, and other important people in our lives,
as well as from events we experience
o Basically, we change in response to our environments (actions and
reactions of people around us)
What Goals Do Developmentalists Pursue?
3 major goals of the developmental sciences are to describe, to explain, and to
optimize development
Description: human developmentalists carefully observe the behaviour of people
of different ages, seeking to specify how people change over time
To adequately describe development; it is necessary to focus on 2 typical
patterns of change
o Normative Development: developmental changes that characterize most
or all members of a species; typical patterns of development
o Ideographic Development: individual variations in the rate, extent, or
direction of development
Explanation: developmentalists try to explain the changes they have observed
o Hope to determine why people develop as they typically do and why some
people develop differently than others
Optimization: hope to optimize development by applying what they have learned
in attempts to help people develop in positive directions
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o Optimization goals often cannot be achieved until researchers have
adequately described normal and idiopathic pathways of development and
their causes
Some Basic Observations about the Character of Development
A Continual and Cumulative Process
o Learned that the first 12 years are extremely important for setting the
stage for adolescence and adulthood
o However, who we are as adolescents and adults also depends on the
experiences we have later in life
o In sum, human development is best described as a continual and
cumulative process. The one constant is change, and the changes that
occur at each major phase of life can have important implications for the
A Holistic Process
o Unified view of the developmental process that emphasizes the important
interrelationships among the physical, mental, social, and emotional
aspects of human development
o Capacity for change; a developmental state that has the potential to be
shaped by experience
o Some who have horrible starts can often be helped to overcome their
Historical/Cultural Context
o Each culture, subculture, and social class transmits a particular pattern of
beliefs, values, customs, and skills to its younger generations, and the
content of this cultural socialization has a strong influence on the attributes
and competencies that individuals display
o Each generation develops in its own way, and each generation changes
the world for succeeding generations
Childhood in Premodern Times
Children had few if any rights and their lives were not always valued by their
elders (citizens of Carthage, Rome, and Spartha)
Some were killed as religious sacrificed and were embedded into the walls of
buildings to “strengthen” the structures
Roman parents were legally entitled to kill their deformed, illegitimate, or
otherwise unwanted infants
o After this was outlawed, unwanted babies were often left to die in the
wilderness or were sold as servants or as objects for sexual exploitation
Even wanted children were often treated harshly
o Given cold baths, sent away to be beaten to instill discipline for their future
warrior position
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