Life span development is a window into the nature of human development from conception to death. The life span perspective involves seven basic contentions: development is lifelong, covers the various life aspects , multidirectional, plastic, historically embedded, multidisciplinary, and contextual (Papaya, 1981)
Development is lifelong. Development includes changes that take place from conception to death.
Development covers various aspects of life. Development consists of biological,cognitive, and social dimensions.
Development is plastic. Depending on the individuals life conditions, development may take many paths.
Development is embedded in history. People’s life paths are influenced by the happenings of that particular time.
The human development is under study by a number of disciplines. Various fields such as Psychology, Sociology, anthropology and medicine all study human development throughout the life span.
Development is influenced by the environment. The individual continually responds to and acts on contexts, which include a person’s biological make-up, physical environment, and social, historical and cultural contexts.
SUMMARY OF TWO THEORIES OF LIFE SPAN DEVELOPMENT.
Cognitive theories of lifespan development emphasize and embrace a wide range of mental processes as perception, retrieval of information and understanding.
The Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental theory explore the continuous changes that take place in an individual’s mental capabilities over time. The information processing theory seeks to understand the mental dynamics used to attend, store, and retrieve information.
Piaget’s Cognitive Developmental Theory.
This theory of conceptual development is unique and one of the most comprehensive to date. The table below provides a summary of Piaget’s Cognitive Stages:
Stages of Development
Significant Cognitive Development
Able to engage in primitive reflex activity. Gradual awareness in sensory and motor capabilities. Trouble with making distinctions between the self and the environment. Later on in this stage, there is an establishment of object permanence.
Gradual increase in language and concept understanding. Child is egocentric. Prevalent Animism thinking. Increased perceptual sensitivity although discrimination is based on physical appearances. Lack of an understanding of the law of conservation.
The child can grasp the law of conservation and reverse mental operations. Objects can be classified and ordered in a series, in terms of size and retinal concepts. At this point abstract thinking has not developed.
Development of abstract thought and reasoning skills. Problem solving is attained by following logical thinking and reasoning by hypothesis.
Information Processing Theory
Similarities can be drawn to information processing theory and how a computer operates. The information processing theory explains cognition by proposing a sequence of mental processes. First the sensory organs are bombarded with a wide array of stimuli. The information is either filtered and discarded or attended to forwarded to the memory. Normally, the information remains in the sense organ for a fraction of a second before the decision to discard or attend to it is made. The next stage involves memory: the short term or working memory and the long term memory. The rehearsed information is forwarded to the long term memory. This string of events allows information to be processed, stored for future use and finally retrieved for use (Santrock, 1995)
The theory emphasizes the individual uniqueness, personal potential and inner drives. Humanists contend that individuals are not controlled excessively by their external environments, nor is their behavior dominated by the irrational forces of the unconscious. Rather, people are free and creative and capable of growth and self actualization. This theory has been shaped mainly by Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers.
Maslow’s Theory of Self Actualization.
The first set of needs in the hierarchy are physiological in nature i.e food, water, shelter and sex. At the second level are safety needs, which involve the person to seeking a sense of security. Next is the need for belonging and love: at this stage there is a need to form relationships and gain a sense of love and belonging. Esteem is the fourth level of the hierarchic pyramid. Esteem means the individuals must receive feedback/respect/ assurance from others in order to realize they are worthwhile and competent. The fifth need is self actualization means reaching an individuals maximum potential and realizing their lives purpose (Berger, 1988)
Roger’s Self Concept Theory
Rogers states that each of us has a real self, which consists of our true self perceptions, and an ideal self, which is the self we would like to aspire to become. When these two selves are in line, then life is without inner conflicts and the person is more likely in the process of developing into fully functioning people. However, when there is a discrepancy between the two selves, we likely suffer from negative emotions such as poor self esteem, feelings of inferiority and guilt. Roger’s therefore advocated for healthy growth and development embracing being insync with the two selves and embracing beneficial and movement toward such important personality dimensions as flexibility, autonomy, and self acceptance.
Thanks to the Humanistic theories, it has become increasingly recognized that emphasizing a person’s uniqueness and potentials is important throughout the life cycle (Turner & Holmes, 1995)
INTERACTION BETWEEN HEREDITY AND ENVIRONMENT.
Parents not only provide the genes for the child’s biological blueprint for development: they also take up a crucial role in determining the types of environments their will children bring up the children.
Behaviour genetics believe heredity and environment interact in this manner in three ways: passively, evocatively and actively.
Passive genotype-environmental interactions occur when the biological parents provide a rearing environment for a child. For example, parents may have a genetic predisposition to be sporty and athletic. Because they exercise and take care of their nutrition, they provide their children with equipment and encouragement, with the likely outcome that their children will become involved in sports and enjoy it too.
Evocative genotype-environment interactions occur because a child’s genotype produces certain types of physical and social environments. For example: cheerful babies receive more social stimulation than passive quiet babies(Shaffer, 1993)
Active (niche picking) genotype-environment interactions occur when children find themselves constantly looking for environments they find compatible and stimulating. “Niche-picking”means finding a place or setting that is especially suited to the child’s interests.
Example: some children because of their genotype, have the intellectual capability to well at school.
Behaviour genetics also believe that another way the environment’s role in hereditary-environment interaction is shown by the experiences that children have in families share with other siblings living in the same homestead and those that are not common or shared.
Shared and Non Shared Environmental Influences
Shared environmental Influences are children’s common experiences, such as their parents’ temperament and religious orientation, the family’s conflict management skills, events celebrated in the home.
Non shared environmental influences are a child’s own individual experiences. These experiences can be within the family and outside the family but have to be specifically not shared with another sibling (Santrock, 1995)
In sum, the importance of both genes and environment can not be overemphasized and are both needed in order for a person to exist. Hereditary and environment operate together to produce a person’s sense of humor, interests, dislikes, physical appearance and so on. These two factors interact to bring about the unique aspects that make up each individual (Bee, 1998)
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Berger K (1988) The Developing Person Through The Life Span(2nd ed) Worth Publishers Inc. New York
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Santrock J. (1995) Life Span Development (5th ed) Brown & Benchmark Publishers. Madison.
Shaffer (1993) Developmental Psychology (3rd ed) Brooks/Cole Publishing Company. California.
Turner J & Helms D (1995) LifeSpan Development (5th ed) Harcourt Brace College Publishers. Fort Worth.