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INTRODUCTION TO

LIFE-SPAN: THEORIES
& HISTORY
PSYC 230
16-18 January 2019
Though theories of development may be
very different, all share having milestones.
• What are some of the important milestones in your life
and the lives of others?

• Of everything on the board, which milestones would you


say are important steps in development and which are
not?
It’s not enough to just list milestones. All
theories also have a mechanism.
• What are some mechanisms in your life and the lives of
others?

• Nature vs. Nurture


• Active vs. Passive
Historical Foundations
• Medieval Times
• Childhood is regarded as a separate period of life
• Reformation
• Puritans believed that children were born evil and stubborn. They
regarding parenting as one of their most important obligations.
• Enlightenment
• John Locke – “Tabula rasa” (Nurture)
• Jean-Jacques Rousseau – noble savages (Nature)
• Scientific Beginnings
• Darwin – change over time, change that is based on the
environment
• G.Stanley Hall – first American psychologist – developed theories
of child development as a maturational process
A good theory...

• An orderly, integrated set of statements that


describes, explains, and predicts behavior.

• Provides organizing framework


• Guides and gives meaning to what is
observed
• Testable by research
• Provide basis for action
Contexts
 Unique combinations of personal and environmental
circumstances that can result in different developmental
paths/courses
 Heredity and biological makeup
 Environment (home, child care, school, neighborhood)
 Circumstances (community resources, social values, historical time
period)
 Multifinality- similar contexts/situations lead to different outcomes
 Equifinality- many different contexts/situations can also lead to the same
outcome
Why Studying Development Matters
• Practical – helpful if you ever plan to parent or teach
• Public Policy
• e.g., child labor laws imply a view of childhood as a special time
• e.g., parental leave
• Personal understanding
Nature vs. Nurture
Nature
• Inborn, biological givens
• Based on genetic
inheritance

Nurture
• Physical and social world
• Influence biological and
psychological development
Continuity vs. Discontinuity

Balanced view embraces both continuous and discontinuous change


Think back to when you were 10 years
old.
• Do you see yourself as a more sophisticated
and more experienced versions of the person
you were then?
• Or do you see a completely different person?
Stability vs. Plasticity
 Stability: usually associated with heredity
 If you are high or low in a characteristic, you are likely to remain so
at later ages.
 Lifelong characteristics
 Early experiences establish patterns
 Plasticity: responsive to experience
 Change is possible, based on new, influential experiences
 Lifelong change

 Do early personality traits persist through life, or do we


become different people as we age?
THEORIES OF
PSYCHOLOGY
Life-Span Perspective
• Development is
• Lifelong
• Multidimensional
• Multidirectional
• Plastic
• Multidisciplinary
• Contextual
• Normative age-graded influences
• Normative history-graded influences
• Non-normative life events
• A process that involves growth, maintenance and regulation of loss
Psychoanalytic Perspective (Freud)
• Children develop through stages that are conflicts between their biological
drives and social expectations.
• How one resolves the conflicts determines the person’s ability to learn, to get
along with others, and to cope with anxiety

© 2013 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.


Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

• Primary motivation of human behavior is social – a desire to affiliate with


others
• Developmental change occurs throughout the life-span (emphasized
importance of early AND late experiences)
Behaviorism
• Behaviorism driven by desire to focus on observable
events
• Classical Conditioning-Pavlov, Watson
• Stimulus- Response
• Learn by association
• Operant Conditioning- Skinner
• Rewards and punishments
John Watson’s Conclusion from the Little
Albert Study
• "Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my
own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee
to take any one at random and train him to become any
type of specialist I might select--doctor, lawyer, artist,
merchant-chief, and, yes, even beggarman and thief,
regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities,
vocations, and race of his ancestors."
Social Learning

• Albert Bandura and


Social Learning Theory
• Modeling
• Revisions of theory also
emphasize cognition
Evaluating Behavioral and Social
Learning Theories
Contributions Limitations
Led to behavior Underestimate individual’s
modification programs, contributions to their own
used in many arenas to development (genetics,
improve behavior and temperament, how people
decrease unwanted make sense of their worlds)
behaviors
* Revisions to Bandura’s
theory are an exception

© 2013 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.


Piaget’s Cognitive-Development Theory
• Children actively construct knowledge as they manipulate
and explore their world
• Children think in different ways than adults
• The mind develops (adapts) as in encounters new
information in the environment
• Used clinical interviews to study how children think about
their worlds
Piaget’s Stages of
Cognitive Development
Sensorimotor Birth–2 years

Preoperational 2–7 years

Concrete Operational 7–11 years

Formal Operational 11 years and older

© 2013 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.


Evaluating Piaget
Contributions Limitations
Child as an active learner Underestimated children’s
Also studied how children competencies, familiarity with
think about the social the task, adult instruction,
world cultural influences
Has affected educational
philosophies

© 2013 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.


Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory
• Concerned with understanding
cultural beliefs and practices
• Sociocultural theory is
concerned with understanding
how culture (beliefs, customs,
skills) are transmitted to the
next generation
• Learning requires social
interaction with adults and
more expert peers
• Internalized dialogues
Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory
• Person as an active learner, but learning is socially
mediated
• Stage-wise change
• Acquiring language
• Entering school
• Also continuous change through interactions with
experts
• Pros: focus on culture
• Cons: ignored biological changes
(Bio)Ecological Systems
Theory
• Urie Bronfenbrenner
• Individual brings biological nature into interactions
• Bidirectional influences
• Individual develops within complex system of
relationships & contexts
• Microsystem
• Mesosystem
• Exosystem
• Macrosystem
• Chronosystem (within history)
Ecological Systems Theory
Structure of the Environment
Evaluating Ecological Systems Theory

Contributions Limitations
Highlights the many How do you test this?
contexts that may
influence development (it
is thorough)

© 2013 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.


Information Processing

• Mind viewed as a symbol-manipulating system through


which information flows; input  output
• Information coded, transformed, organized
• Individuals are considered active in making sense of
their environment
• Continuous - the process is similar across development
• Pros: rigorous research methods; has led to better
teaching methods
• Cons: no one integrated theory
Recent Theoretical Perspectives
• Ethology
• Concerned with adaptive value of behavior and its
evolutionary history
• Influenced by Darwin
• Observations across species
• Konrad Lorenz and geese
imprinting.
• Critical periods- limited time
during which child is
biologically prepared to
acquire certain behaviors but
needs appropriate
environmental stimuli.
Ethology – Sensitive Period

• An optimal time for certain


capacities to emerge because
the individual is especially
responsive to environmental
influences in this domain
• Development is hard to induce
later
• Boundaries less defined than a
critical period
Evolutionary Developmental
Psychology
• Seeks to understand the adaptive value of
species-wide competencies and how they
change with age

• What behaviors were once adaptive, but may no


longer be adaptive in today’s day and age?
Dynamic Systems
Perspective
• Mind, body, physical and social
worlds form an integrated system
that guides mastery of new skills.

• System is constantly changing,


and a change in any one system
affects the other systems.

• Change causes the systems to


reorganize to work in a more
complex, effective way.

• Broad universals but individual


differences as well.
Periods of Development

Prenatal & Birth Conception-Birth


Infancy & Toddlerhood Birth – 2 years
Early Childhood 2 – 6 years
Middle Childhood 6 – 11 years
Adolescence 12 – 18 years
Emerging Adulthood Early 20s
Early Adulthood 20s – 30s
Middle Adulthood Late 30s – 60s
Late Adulthood 65+
Death & Dying
Conceptions of Age
• Chronological Age
• Biological Age
• Social Age
• Psychological Age
Chronological Age
• How many years since birth
• Problems? People with the same chrono age may be very different
functionally.
Functional Age
• Age based on what physical activities an individual can do
on a day-to-day basis
• Typically used in older adulthood
• E.g., get around in community, bathe, dress, prepare meals, handle
finances, use the phone, etc.
Biological Age
• Changes in the structure and functioning of the human
organism through time
• Affected by genetics and environment
• E.g., cataracts, Type 2 Diabetes, reaction time, grip
strength, skin elasticity, etc.
Social Age
• Definition – “Time of life”
• E.g., married, married with kids, empty nesters

• What are considered ”normal” behaviors for a person?


• Can a person do the same things as their same-age
peers?
• E.g., Older adulthood  when do they need to relinquish
normal roles/tasks?
Psychological Age
• Behavioral capacities people use to adapt to changing
environmental demands
• E.g., memory, motivation, learning ability, adaptation,
coping with daily stressors, etc.

• “Maturity”
He feels 20 years younger;
doctors told him he has the
body of a younger man

Would be happy to delay


his pension benefits for 20
years, if change approved

“When I’m 69, I am limited.


If I’m 49, then I can buy a
new house, drive a different
car. I can take up more
work. When I’m on Tinder
and it says I’m 69, I don’t
get an answer. When I’m
49, with the face I have, I
will be in a [better]
position.”