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Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - Introduction to Developmental Psychology

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Psychology 2410A/B
Sandra Hessels

History Theory and Applied Directionschild developmentan area of study devoted to understanding constancy and change from conception through adolescence child development is part of a larger interdisciplinary field known as developmental science which includes all changes we experience throughout the lifespanThe Field of Child DevelopmentDomains of Developmentdevelopment often is divided into three broad domains physical cognitive and emotional and socialPeriods of Development1 The prenatal period from conception to birthin this ninemonth period the most rapid time of change a onecelled organism is transformed into a human baby with remarkable capacities for adjusting to life in the surrounding world2 Infancy and toddlerhood from birth to two yearsthis period brings dramatic changes in the body and brain that support the emergence of a wide array of motor perceptual and intellectual capacities the beginnings of language and first intimate ties to others infancy spans the first year toddlerhood spans the second during which children take their first independent steps making a shift to greater autonomy3 Early childhood from 2 to 6 yearsthe body becomes longer and leaner motor skills are refined and children become more selfcontrolled and selfsufficient makebelieve play blossoms supporting every aspect of psychological development thought and language expand at an astounding pace a sense of morality becomes evident and children establish ties with peers4 Middle childhood from 6 to 11 yearschildren learn about the wider world and master new responsibilities that increasingly resemble those they will perform as adults hallmarks of this period are improved athletic abilities participation in organized games with rules more logical thought processes mastery of basic literacy skills and advances in selfunderstanding morality and friendship5 Adolescence from 11 to 18 yearsthis period initiates the transition to adulthood puberty leads to an adultsized body and sexual maturity thought becomes abstract and idealistic and schooling is increasingly directed toward preparation for higher education and the world of work young people begin to establish autonomy from the family and define personal values and goalsfor many contemporary youths in industrialized nations the transition to adult roles has become increasingly prolongedso much so that some researchers have posited a new period of development called emerging adulthood which spans ages from 18 to 25 although emerging adults have moved beyond adolescence they have not yet fully assumed adult roles during higher education and sometimes beyond these young people intensify their exploration of options in love career and personal values before making enduring commitmentsBasic Issuesresearch on child development did not begin until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries ideas about how children grow and change have a much longer history a theory is an orderly integrated set of statements that describes explains and predicts behaviourtheories are vital tools for two reasons first they provide organizing frameworks for our observations of children they guide and give meaning to what we see second theories that are verified by research often serve as a sound basis for practical action once a theory helps us understand development we are in a much better position to know how to improve the welfare and treatment of childrenContinuous or Discontinuous Developmenthow can we best describe the differences in capacities and behaviour between small infants young children adolescents and adultsmajor theories recognize two possibilitiesone view holds that infants and preschoolers respond to the world in much the same way adults do the difference between the immature and mature being is simply one of amount or complexity continuousa process of gradually adding more of the same types of skills that were there to begin withaccording to the second view thoughts emotions and behaviour differ considerably from those of adults discontinuousa process in which new ways of understanding and responding to the world emerge at specific timestheories that accept the discontinuous perspective regard development as taking place in stagesqualitative changes in thinking feeling and behaving that characterize specific periods of development the stage concept assumes that children undergo periods of rapid transformation as they step up from one stage to the next alternating with plateaus during which they stand solidly within a stage change is fairly sudden rather than gradual and ongoingOne Course of Development or Manystage theorists assume that people everywhere follow the same sequence of development
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