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Chapter 1

PSYC 4070 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Miscarriage, Hypervigilance, Phenylketonuria

Course Code
PSYC 4070

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Chapter 1: Beginnings: An Introduction to Development Across the Life Span
Life span development major concern: Understanding growth and change during the
course of life
Lifespan/Developmental Psychologists study:
Role of genetics: attempt to understand how genetic background can determine:
How we look
How we behave
How we relate to others in a consistent manner (personality)
Role of environment: attempt to understand how the environment impacts us. For
example, why behave the way we behave
Examine how early environments and current circumstances shape and influence
Some developmentalists focus on heredity, some on environment, most acknowledge that
MUST study joint effects on the interaction of heredity and environment to account for
full range of human development and change
Lifespan Development – field of study that examines pattern of:
Stability in behavior/physical development/cognitive development through out entire life
Major assumption – in some ways people continue to grow and change right up to the end
of life, while in other respects they remain stable
Characterizing Lifespan Development: The scope of the field
Developmentalist focus on:
1. Physical Development – examine ways in which body’s makeup (brain, Central
Nervous System, senses) help determine behavior
Ex. Study reaction time (physical performance) in individuals over the
course of the life span
2. Cognitive Development – examine ways in which growth and change in
intellectual capabilities influence a person
Examine learning, memory, problem solving, and intelligence
Ex. They might want to see how intelligence changes over the course of

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3. Personality Development – study stability and change in characteristics that
differentiate one person from another over the lifespan
Ex. Might study whether introversion is a stable characteristic throughout
life or if there is change
4. Social Development – study individuals interaction with others and if social
relationships grow/change or remain stable over the course of life.
Ex. They might study the effects of divorce on development
Age Ranges and Individual Differences
Usually specialize in a particular topical area (cognitive, physical, social)
Typically look at a particular age range (adolescence)
Life span usually divided into broad age ranges:
Prenatal period – conception to birth
Infancy and Toddlerhood – birth to age 3
Preschool Period – Ages 3 to 6
Middle Childhood – Ages 6 to 12
Adolescence – Ages 12 to 20
Young Adulthood – Ages 20 to 40
Middle Adulthood- Ages 40 to 60
Late Adulthood – Age 60 to death
Age ranges are arbitrary.
1. Critical and Sensitive Periods
Critical Period:
Specific time in development when an event has its greatest consequences
Presence of certain kinds of environmental stimuli are necessary for
development to proceed normally
Ex: Rubella in 11th week of pregnancy – consequences are baby becoming
blind, deaf, mental retardation
Damage unlikely if strike in 30th week of pregnancy
Current thinking suggest individuals are more flexible
oi.e. Increasing evidence tells us that people can use later
experiences to their benefit and helping them overcome earlier
Thus, developmentalists more likely to speak of sensitive periods
Sensitive Periods:
Point in development when organisms are particularly susceptible to
certain kind of stimuli but absence of those stimuli does not always
produce irreversible consequences
Example: Adoption
2. Lifespan Approaches vs. Focus on Particular Periods

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On which part of the life span should developmentalists focus their
Early developmentalists focuses on infancy and adolescence and largely
excluded other parts of life span
Example: Freud’s theory of psychosexual development
Currently, belief is that entire life span is important
oReason being is that we now understand that developmental
growth/change continues during every part of life
Developmentalists Paul Bates says development across the life span
involves both gains and losses
oi.e. as age increases, certain capabilities become more refined
while other involve loss of skill and capacity
Ex. Vocabulary tend to grow through out childhood and
continue through most of adulthood
Ex. Certain physical capabilities, such as reaction time,
improve until early and middle adulthood, then begin to
3. Influence of Nature and Nurture on Development
Controversy: how much of peoples behavior is due to nature (genetics)
and how much is due to nurture (environment)?
Nature: traits and abilities inherited from parents
oInfluences whether our eyes are blue or brown; whether we have
think hair or go bald, etc.
Nurture: refers to environmental influences that shape behavior
oSome environmental influences are biological
Pregnant woman using cocaine and what it does to
developing fetus
oSome may be social
Effects of peer pressure on adolescent behavior
Most developmentalists reject the either/or and accept that behavior is the
result solely of a combo of nature vs. nurture
oThus, focus is on degree of influence: how much of influence is
genetics and how much is environment
Theoretical Perspectives on Lifespan Development
5 Major Theoretical Perspectives in lifespan development (More than one theory can
comprise a perspective)
1. Psychodynamic Perspective – Focusing on the Inner Person
Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory
oStates that personality and behavior motivated by:
Inner forces
Unconscious conflicts
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