Lifespan Development

It is well recognized among developmental theorists that neither heredity nor environment can account for development over lifespan. This paper aims at offering the understanding of human development. The work commences with presenting an explanation of the various facets of development, which include personal/social, cognitive and physical development. The relationship between age and aspects of developments are also revisited. From the various sources, it becomes evident that factors such as nonstop versus sporadic lifespan change, and critical versus sensitive periods of development, influence development over lifespan. Psychodynamic theory, behavioral, cognitive, and humanistic perspectives are considered further in the understanding of human development. Some of these concepts differ in their explanation of development. Some maintain that development is continuous, while some are of the opinion that this process is discontinuous.

Development over lifespan focuses on the progress of human being. Though there exist other developmentalists studying development from nonhuman perspectives, the majority of them investigates growth and change in humans. Some scientists seek to comprehend the universal tenets of developments, while some concentrate on how racial, cultural and ethnic differences influence the lifespan development course. Others are also still focusing on comprehending the exceptional characteristics of individuals by examining the traits that distinguish one individual from the others over the course of his/her life. Irrespective of the approach, all theories tend to view the process as an incessant progression throughout the lifespan. As theorists concentrate on the trends in which people transform and grow their lives, they also regard stability in the lives of people they are studying. Researchers have attempted to find the areas and periods within which human beings exhibit change and grow. They also have strived to study consistency and continuity in human behavior. Generally, developmental over lifespan is an interesting and wide topic. On this background, this paper discusses the development of human beings in relation to factors influencing it, and theoretical perspectives that have guided it.

Aspects of Lifespan Development

Development over lifespan is a multifaceted domain. Its first sphere is physical development. It relates to the manner in which the composition of the body assists in the determination of behavior. The brain, muscles, senses and nervous system are considered as the major composition of the body (Lucas & Donnellan). For instance, studies focusing on physical development might assess the impacts of several factors, such as malnutrition, on the pace of growth of children as they undertake education. The dietary habits are the main influencing factor on physical development. In relation to this study, a connection between retarded growths and nutrition, which might have an impact on education of a child, can be seen.

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The second facet of lifespan development is cognitive development. Researchers on this issue aim at comprehending how growth and variation in cognitive abilities dictate the behavior of an individual. The scientist examined how memory, learning and problem solving abilities and intelligence are acquired (Messer & Wolitzky). Straightforwardly, cognitive development plays a crucial role in education, because it determines the ability of child to memorize and internalize what he or she is taught in class. Some researchers have investigated how problem-solving abilities vary over the course of life. As a cognitive scientist, an individual can also be interested in the manner in which human beings experience traumatic events in early life, which they would recall at old age (Dykas & Cassidy).

The third facet is personality development, which often overlaps with social development. This issue focuses on the study of transformation and constancy in the long-term aspects that forms a person’s individuality over his/her lifespan. Allan defined social development as the style in which people interrelate with others as their social relations, which can change and remain unchanging over time. Personal development studies might concentrate on recognizing stability and long-term personal traits, throughout lifespan. Conversely, social development studies might concentrate on the influences of racism, poverty, or divorce on human development (Lucas & Donnellan). All the three facets of development have an impact on one another.

Age and Individual Variations

Besides focusing on a specific facet, an educational developmentalist might decide to examine how age and associated differences vary over lifespan. Human life can be divided into broad age categories. The first phase is prenatal stage, which is actually the period between conception and birth. The second age category is toddlerhood, which is the duration between birth and the third year of life. The subsequent age category is preschool stage, which constitutes children aged from three to six years (Dykas & Cassidy). The next age phase is middle childhood, which comprises of individuals aged between six and twelve years. The fifth age group is puberty, which constitutes of individuals aged between twelve and twenty years. The subsequent stage is young adulthood, and it consists of people aged between twenty and forty years. The seventh phase is middle adulthood (persons aged between forty and sixty five years). The last age category is late adulthood, comprising of persons aged above sixty five years.

Every development facet – social, cognitive, physical and personality development – plays a significant role in development over lifespan (Lucas & Donnellan). As a result, some developmentalist studies have concentrated on physical development during the prenatal period, while others during adolescence. Similarly, Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde focused on instances of social development during preschool years, whereas Dykas & Cassidy investigated social relations during late adulthood.

Cohort and Other Impacts on Development

A cohort refers to a group of individuals born at virtually the same time in the same place. Major social phenomenon, such as economic crisis, wars, famines and epidemics result in the same influences on the constituents of a cohort (Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde). From the perceptive of an educator, these effects assist in determining how cohort members affect a child’s readiness for school. For instance, an educator might attempt to find the benefits and limitations of coming from a cohort in which Internet use is a routine, compared to the earlier cohorts who lived before the inception of the Internet (Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde).

Villar classified cohort impacts on development as age-graded and history-graded. They offer a good example of history-graded impacts, which are both environmental and biological influences linked to specific historical time. For example, persons who lived during the 9/11 attack have collective environmental and biological challenges resulting from it (Villar). On the other hand, age-graded impacts are environmental and biological influences common to individuals of specific age group, irrespectively of when or where they were brought up. For instance, biological phenomena, including menopause and puberty, are universal events occurring at comparatively the same age for all individuals, throughout all communities. Likewise, a sociocultural event, such as commencement of formal education can be regarded as an age-grade influence since it takes place in virtually all the cultures at around age of six (Villar).

Socio-cultural-graded impacts also influence human development. Glück & Bluck defined these influences as social and cultural factors existing in a specific time for specific person, depending on ethnicity, subcultural and social class membership. For instance, socio-cultural-graded impact will be more significant for children from wealthy white race than for children from poor minority group (Pfeifer & Peake).

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Key Factors Determining the Nature of Lifespan Development

For developmentalists, the variation and range in lifespan development raises several questions and issues. Some of these issues are linked to appropriate ways of thinking about the drastic transformations that an individual undergoes from before birth to death. Some of the questions have also been asked regarding the importance of chronological age. These issues and questions have been argued since lifespan development first became introduced as a distinct field in the early XX century (Dykas & Cassidy). In this section, the paper examines the issues determining the nature and nurture of lifespan development.

Nonstop Versus Sporadic Lifespan Change

Developmentalists, such as Pfeifer & Peake, have debated whether development proceeds in a nonstop or sporadic style. Development is steady with achievements at one phase acting as input in the next phase in continuous development change. Nonstop development change is quantitative, which implies that the key underlying developmental processes driving transformation remain the same over the course of lifespan (Pfeifer & Peake). Nonstop change produces transformations that are a matter of extend, and not of kind. An example of a nonstop/continuous transformation is the change in height before adulthood. However, some theorists, including Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde, have also suggested that alteration in a person’s thinking abilities is a continuous process, exhibiting regular quantitative improvements, instead of developing entirely new cognitive abilities.

On the other hand, development can be perceived as mainly constituting sporadic changes, taking place in different phases. Every change or stage results in behavior that is presumed to be qualitatively disparate from behavior at previous stages (Allan). Consequently, sporadic change is a matter of qualitative change, rather than quantitative. Despite being considered a continuous process, some theorists, such as Messer & Wolitzky, have pointed out that cognitive development is of a sporadic nature. Despite the issues surrounding continuity and discontinuity of development, majority of developmentalists affirm that leaning on either side is not appropriate. Whereas several developmental changes exhibit continuity, others clearly demonstrate discontinuity.

Critical Versus Sensitive Periods of Development

A critical period refers to a specific time in the development process when a specific event has its utmost magnitudes. Critical period seems to take place when the availability or presence of certain forms of environmental stimuli is necessary for development to proceed. Despite early theories on lifespan development emphasizing on the significance of critical periods, recent theories argue that, in several domains, individuals are more pliable than was first perceived, especially in the realm of social and personality development (Messer & Wolitzky). For example, instead of suffering an enduring damage from inadequate form of social experiences, there is emerging proof that individuals can utilize later experiences to their benefit, in order to overcome earlier inadequacies.

ause of the emerging proofs, developmental theorists are leaning more regarding sensitive period. Messer & Wolitzky defined this phase as an instance in development when organisms are especially vulnerable to some forms of stimuli in the environment, though the absence of the stimuli does not often result in an irreversible effect. From an educators perspective, there is age when a child is sensitive to education partially because children around are going to school. The other school-going children act as stimuli, and their absence result in irreversible effect (Glück & Bluck).

For educators, it is significant to comprehend the distinction between the notions of sensitive and critical periods. In critical periods, it is assumed that the unavailability of certain forms of environmental influences is likely to result in permanent irreversible consequences for the development (Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde). Consequently, teachers can use critical periods to instill knowledge to children since they are unlikely to forget what is learnt in such phases. On the other hand, despite the unavailability of certain environmental influences during the sensitive period hindering development, it is possible for later experiences to overcome earlier inadequacies. Consequently, sensitive periods play a crucial role in linking cognitive process, thereby allowing remembering (Dykas & Cassidy).

Theoretical Views on Lifespan Development

There are several theoretical perspectives applicable to lifespan development. Some of the most frequently used include psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, and humanistic theories (Dykas & Cassidy). Each of these theoretical perspectives provides distinct aspects of lifespan development, and influences educators in specific directions. In addition, every concept continues evolving as required by the growing and dynamic discipline.
Psychodynamic Theoretical Perspective

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This theoretical perspective focuses on the inner person. The supporters of psychodynamic theoretical perspective strongly believe that inner forces, conflicts and memories that an individual has little or no awareness or control, mostly influence human behavior. They might emerge from one’s childhood, and continually proceed influencing his/her behavior throughout the lifespan (Dykas & Cassidy).

Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory

Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is often linked to the psychodynamic theoretical perspective. According to Freud, insentient forces determine personality and behavior. It is a part of one’s personality about which he or she is not aware (Glück & Bluck). The insentient part of an individual constitutes the childhood wishes, desires, needs and demands that are concealed from the sentient part due to their disturbing characteristics. According to psychoanalytic theory, the insentient plays a substantial role in the determination of everyday behavior (Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde).

Freud suggested that a sequence of phases that a child undergoes focuses on specific biological function and body part. He assumed that the personality of everyone has three elements that include ego, id and superego (Dykas & Cassidy). The id refers to the raw, unorganized inborn segment of personality that is evident at birth. It represents primitive motivations linked to aggression, sex, irrational impulses and hunger. Freud suggested that the id functions are based on the pleasure principle; in their objective is the maximization and reduction of tension.

The ego refers to the segment of the personality that is sensible and rational. To Freud, it serves as a buffer between the real world and the primitive id (Dykas & Cassidy). Its functions are based on the reality principle, which holds that instinctual energy is controlled to maintain the safety of the individual and assist in the integration of the person into the society (Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde).

The superego refers to the conscious mind of an individual that engages in distinguishing wrong and right. It begins to develop during preschool period, and is acquired from teachers, parents and other important figures (Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde). To an educator, it is therefore evident that superego determines whether a child acquires concepts learned.

Psychosocial Theory

Erik Erikson invented the psychosocial theory. According to it, the society and culture have an influence on development (Lucas & Donnellan). Erikson’s psychosocial development theory integrates one’s interaction with comprehension of one another, as well as one’s understanding and knowledge of himself/herself as a society member. The scientist agrees with the fact that development takes place in the eight phases mentioned above. According to Erikson, these stages emerge in a fixed style, and are the same for all individuals. He argued that every phase presents a conflict that an individual must resolve. Despite no crises has ever reached full resolution, which makes life sophisticates, an individual has to address them at every stage in order to address the demands made during the subsequent stage. In contradiction to Freud, who asserted that development comparatively ceases at adolescence, Erikson pointed out that growth and change proceed throughout lifespan (Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde).

Behavioral Perspective

The behavioral perspective holds that the keys to comprehending development are visible behavior and external environmental stimuli (Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde). If one knows the stimuli, then it becomes possible to predict his or her behavior. However, behavioral theories do not acknowledge the notion of age-graded impact, which maintains that all people experience a sequence of phases. The two known behavioral theories include classical conditioning, and operant conditioning (Dykas & Cassidy). It is widely recognized that human beings develop through learning, and these two theories focus on learning through observable behavior.

Classical conditioning theory holds that it is possible to get the full comprehension of development by carefully examining stimuli that the environment constitutes (Lucas & Donnellan). Classical conditioning takes place when an individual learns to react in a certain manner to a neutral stimulus, which frequently does not evoke that form of reaction. Conditioning refers to a form of learning in which the reaction linked to one provocation can be associated to another one. The process of classical conditioning elucidates how human beings learn emotional reactions in order to develop emotionally (Lucas & Donnellan).

Operant conditioning refers to type of learning in which voluntary reactions are fortified or weakened by the relationship with negative or positive. It varies from classical conditioning in which reaction is voluntary and resolute instead of automatic. In this form of learning, individuals act intentionally on their surroundings to cause desired consequences (Lucas & Donnellan).

The chances that an adult or child will repeat a certain observable behavior relies on whether the behavior is followed by reinforcement. In this scenario, reinforcement refers to the process through which the provocation is offered, which increases the chances that the preceding behavior will be repeated. Therefore, in relation to education, a student is dedicated to working hard in school if he or she receives good grades. Besides, punishment or the introduction of an unfriendly stimulus decreases the chances that a previous behavior will be repeated. Operant conditioning seems to have applications in education (Lucas & Donnellan). It is also used to rectify behavior of students by introducing punishment, which is an unpleasant provocation.

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Cognitive Perspective

This perspective makes emphasis on how humans internally represent and think about the universe. By utilizing this perspective, developmentalists hope to comprehend how people process information, and how their thinking affects their behavior. Piaget’s theory falls under cognitive perspective (Lucas & Donnellan).

This theory maintains that everyone passes through a fixed series of universal stages of cognitive development. Jean Piaget argued that both quantity and quality of information processed by an individual increases at every stage. However, the quality of knowledge and comprehension also changes (Lucas & Donnellan). This theory represents human thinking in terms of schemes, which are organized in mental patterns representing actions and behaviors. They represent concrete behavior in infants; they have scheme for reaching and sucking among others. Older children have more sophisticated and abstract schemes. For instance they might have one relating to skills for playing interactive video games. The schemes can be likened to computer software that instructs the operations of the computer. To Piaget, the growth of child’s comprehension of the universe can be elucidated by two key principles of assimilation and accommodation (Dykas & Cassidy).

Humanistic Perspective

The humanistic perspective maintains that human beings have the natural ability to make decisions concerning their lives. This perspective emphasizes on free will, rather than depending on societal standards. It assumes that people are motivated to make decisions concerning what to do with their lives. Major supporters of humanistic perspective argue that everyone has a need for positive regard, which emanates from an underlying wish to be respected or loved. Since other people are those providing this respect and love, one is dependent on them. As a result, one’s view of him/her and self-worth is an indication of how he or she thinks others view him or her (Allan).

This paper has discussed development over lifespan in relation to factors influencing it, and theoretical perspectives. The various facets of development include physical, personal/social, and cognitive development. Physical development focuses on the manner in which the composition of the body assists in the determination of behavior. Cognitive facet aims at comprehending how growth and variation in cognitive abilities dictate the behavior of an individual. Personality development centers on the study of change and stability in the lasting aspects that distinguish individuals from others over lifespan. Some of the most frequently used theoretical perspectives include psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, and humanistic theories. Some of the key factors influencing lifespan development include nonstop versus sporadic lifespan change, and critical versus sensitive periods of development.

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