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Chapter 1

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University of Ottawa
Gustavo Gottret

Chapter 1: The Life-span Perspective Life-span Development -the pattern of change that begins at conception and continues through the life cycle -learning about this allows us to gain insight about who we are, how we came to be this way, and where our future will take us -begins from the point of conception to the point when life ends -the life span approach emphasizes developmental change throughout adulthood as well as childhood Life-span Perspective -the view that development is lifelong, multidimensional, multidirectional, plastic, contextual, and multidisciplinary -is a process that involves growth, maintenance, and regulation -development is constructed through biological, sociocultural, and individual factors working together a) Development is Lifelong -the lifespan perspective says that early adulthood is not the endpoint of development -no age period dominates development b) Development is Multidimensional -development consists of biological, cognitive, and socio-emotional processes -there are various components within a process that play a role c) Development is Multidirectional -throughout life, some dimensions or components of a dimension expand and others shrink -e.g.: when one language (i.e.: English or French) is acquired early in development, the capacity for acquiring second and third languages decreases d) Development is Plastic -plasticity involves the capacity for change e) Development is Multidisciplinary -psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, neuroscientists, and medical researchers all study human development f) Development Involves Growth, Maintenance, and Regulation -the 3 goals of human development include growth, maintenance, and regulation -conflict and competition are often involved in the mastery of life -as individuals enter middle and late adulthood, the maintenance and regulation of their capacities take centre stage away from growth g) Development is a Co-Construction of Biology, Culture, and the Individual -our brain shapes and interprets culture but is also shaped by culture and the experiences we have or pursue -we can go beyond what our genetic inheritance and environment give us -we can create a unique developmental path by actively choosing from the environment the things that optimize our lives h) Development is Contextual -all development occurs within a context Context -the settings, influenced by historical, political, economic, social and cultural factors, in which development occurs -it includes families, socio-economic status, schools peer groups, churches, cities, neighbourhoods, etc. -each of those settings is influenced by historical, economic, geological, social, and cultural factors -context can change -context exerts 3 types of influences: 1) Normative Age-Graded Influences -are similar for individuals in a particular age group -these influences include biological processes such as puberty and menopause -include sociocultural / environmental processes (i.e.: beginning formal education) and retirement 2) Normative History-Graded Influences -are common to people of a particular generation due to historical circumstances -e.g.: the terrorist attacks of September 11, the integration of computers and cell phones into everyday life, etc. -the 2010 floods in Haiti and Pakistan are non-normative history-graded influences because the context shaping the countries' history and cultural legacy will be permanently influenced 3) Non-Normative Life Events -occurrences which are not anticipated but have a major impact on an individual's life -e.g.: when a parent dies unexpectedly when a child is young -can also include positive events such as winning the lottery, getting unexpected career opportunities -understanding the role non-normative life events involves focussing on how people adapt to them Life Expectancy -refers to the average age a child born in a given year can expect to live to, based on specific mortality rates calculated for a given year -life expectancy for Canadian men and women are 80 and 82 -context plays a role in life expectancy because it determines access to water, hygiene, health care, and social services Median Age -the age at which half the population is older and the other half is younger -the median age in Canada is 39.5 -a factor in the increasing median age is the decreasing fertility rate -to sustain a population, the reproduction rate must be 2.1 offspring per woman -2.5 in the US -1.5 in Canada -median age influences how we define old and the age that is appropriate for social conventions (i.e.: marriage and child birth) Baby Boomers -people born between 1944 and 1964 (a time when fertility rates were considerably higher) -these changing demographics mean that we will have more retirees, a smaller workforce, and fewer preschool / school-age children -the demands for housing, health care, daycare, and education will be altered due to these changing demographics Socio-Economic Status -is a contextual influence -poverty inhibits growth and development because access to health services and recreational and educational programs are limited Developmental Processes and Periods Biological Processes -produce changes in an individual's physical nature -genes inherited from parents, the development of the brain, height / weight gains, changes in motor skills, hormonal changes during puberty, cardiovascular decline, etc. all reflect the role of biological processes in development Cognitive Processes -refer to changes in the individual's thought, intelligence, and language Socio-Emotional Processes -involves changes in the individuals relationships with other people, changes in emotions, and changes in personality -e.g.: an infant's smile in response to her mother's touch, a young boy's aggressive attack on a playmate, a girl's development of assertiveness, an older sibling's concern for a younger sibling, etc. -biological, cognitive, and socio-emotional processes are bidirectional -e.g.: biological processes can influence cognitive processes and vice versa Periods of Development -the interplay of biological, cognitive, and socio-emotional processes produces the periods of the human life span -a developmental period refers to a time frame in a person's life that is characterized by certain features 1) Prenatal Period -from conception to birth -involves growth from a single cell to a complete organism 2) Infancy -extending from birth to 18 or 24 months -a time of extreme dependence on adults -many psychological activities are just beginning (i.e.: language, sensorimotor coordination, social learning, etc.) 3) Early Childhood -extending from the end of infancy to 5 or 6 years -"preschool years" -young children learn to become more self-sufficient and to care for themselves, spend time with peers, etc. 4) Middle and Late Childhood -extends from about 6 to 11 years of age -elementary school years -fundamental skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic are mastered -achievement becomes a more central theme of the child's world; self-control increases 5) Adolescence -developmental period of transition from childhood to early adulthood (10 to 12 years - 18 to 21 years) -defined by rapid physical changes (gains in height and weight, changes in body contour, development of sexual characteristics, etc.) -pursuit of independence and identity -thought is more logical, abstract, and idealistic -one begins to spend more time away from family 6) Early Adulthood -late teens to early 20s - 30s -time for establishing personal and economic independence, career development, selecting a mate, learning to live with someone in an intimate way, starting a family, having children 7) Middle Adulthood -40s - 60s -time for expanding personal and social involvement and responsibility, assisting the next generation in becoming competent and mature individuals, and maintaining satisfaction in a career 8) Late Adulthood -longest span of any period of development -this age group is increasing dramatically and is getting more attention -oldest-old (85+) show considerable loss in cognitive skills, have an increase in chronic stress, and are more frail compared to other old-age groups; they have reached their functional capacity Age and Happiness -a study indicates that in North America, adults are happier as they age -older people are more content with what they have in their lives, have better relationships with people who matter to them, are less pressured to achieve, have more time for leisurely pursuits, and have many years of experience that may help them adapt to their circumstances -baby boomers are reported to be less happy than individuals born earlier possibly because they are not lowering their aspirations and idealistic hopes as they age, while earlier generations did Conceptions of Age 1) Chronological age -the number of years that have elapsed since a person's birth -synonymous with the concept of age -may not be relevant to understanding a person's psychological development -events and experiences that accumulate over the years contribute to shaping us 2) Biological Age -a person's age in terms of biological health -determining this age involves knowing the functional capacities of a person's vital organ system -the younger a person's biological age, the longer the person is expected to live 3) Mental Age -an individual's ability to solve problems on a standardized instrument compared with others of the same chronological age 4) Psychological Age -an individual's adaptive capacities relative to those of other individuals of the same chronological age -older adults who continue to learn may be more flexible and motivated 5) Social Age -refers to social roles and expectations related to a person's age -i.e.: the role of a mother Issues in Life-Span Development Nature and Nurture -involves the extent to which development is primarily influenced by nature or nurture -nature refers to an organism's biological inheritance -an evolutionary and genetic foundation produces commonalities in growth and development -though, extreme environments can depress development -nurture refers to an organism's environmental experiences -experiences range from the individual's biological environment (i.e.: nutrition, medical care, drugs, physical activity, etc.) to the social environment (family, peers, school, community, culture, etc.) -the development of the brain is driven by genetic makeup -the growth of dendrite branches of the brain and their synapses is linked to environmental stimuli -a combination of nature and nurture is at work in the development of the brain Continuity and Discontinuity -focuses on the extent to which development involves gradual, cumulative change (continuity) or distinct stages (discontinuity) -a child's first word seems like an abrupt, discontinuous event but is actually the result of weeks of growth and practice -puberty, seemingly abrupt, is a gradual process occurring over several years -in terms of discontinuity, each person is seen as passing through a sequence of stages in which change occurs qualitatively, rather than quantitatively -e.g.: as a caterpillar changes to a butterfly -e.g.: a child moving from concrete thinking to abstract thinking Stability and Change -addresses whether development is best described by stability or change -this issue involves the degree to which we become older renditions of our early experience or, instead, develop into someone different from who we were at an earlier point in development -some who argue for stability say that stability is a result of heredity and possibly early experiences in life -some who argue change say that experience can produce change -plasticity / the potential for change exists throughout the life span -older adults show less capacity for change in the sense of learning new things compared to younger adults, but older adults continue to be good at practising what they have learned earlier Evaluating Developmental Issues -nature and nurture, stability and change, continuity and discontinuity characterize development throughout the human life span -most life-span developmentalists agree that extreme positions are unwise -we use research using scientific methods to answer questions regarding these topics Some Contemporary Concerns -contemporary concerns allow for research opportunities that shape our social policies Health and Well-Being -have always been important goals -lifestyles and psychological states play a role in health and well-being -issues include genetic counselling, school health programs, breast versus bottle feeding, geriatric concerns (i.e.: dementia and Alzheimer's disease) Education -research in education includes curriculum development to ensure currency and to provide an appropriate knowledge base for children of all skill levels -research in education aims at addressing social needs such as drop out rates, the influence of computers on the brain, bullying, etc. Socio-Cultural Contexts -includes 5 important concepts: context, culture, ethnicity, gender, and race 1) Context -the setting in which development occurs -influenced by historical, political, economic, geographic, social, and cultural factors 2) Culture -the behaviour patterns, beliefs, and all other products of a particular group of people that are passed on from generation to generation -results f
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