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Lifespan Development

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Lifespan Development





Lifespan Development

Lifespan development is a wide field in the field of psychology. It all began with Darwin, who, in his quest to understand evolution, began to study the topic. In simple terms, lifespan development refers to a process, usually beginning from conception and ending when an organism dies. The process occurs methodologically and is as a result of the change that occurs with increasing age. Although the lifespan development may look simple, it is quite complex and involves different developmental stages. According to Baltes, (1996), the entire life cycle has four eras. These eras, he says, take an approximate time of 20-25 years. Levinson goes further to identify the developmental periods as childhood and adolescence, early childhood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood.

At this point in time, it is formal to simplify various terminologies that relation to human development. This is because they will feature constantly in the preceding sections. First and foremost is development. This is simply a change characterized by movement from one state to another. Usually, development leads to transitions. Development, as will be used in this paper, will refer to growth, and progression through certain stages, commonly termed as “maturity.” Another term of significance is stage. This refers to sections that differentiate the various phases of growth. The phases involve changes which are either physical or intellectual and their subsequent impact on life events and experiences.

This paper examines the wider field of lifespan development. It begins by exploring the stages of human development. As regards, the stages, the paper focuses on seven main stages i.e. the infancy stage, early childhood, middle childhood, Adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood. In the next section, the paper discusses developmental theories and their influence on thinking. Some of the theories discussed include the Piaget's Theories, Vygotsky’s cultural history theory, ecological systems, and attachment theories. In the preceding section, the paper looks at how early stages of development influence later life outcomes. In a nutshell, the paper examines how teratogens influence adulthood. The paper also looks at the influence that neurodevelopmental disorders and nutrition have on later stages of development. Towards the end, the paper discusses the intervention measures that can be used to curb terrible outcomes.
Lifespan Perspective:

The lifespan perspective is of the idea that significant changes occur all along development. Human development, in particular, consists of changes that are multidimensional, plastic, and contextual. According to lifespan perspective, these changes involve growth, maintenance, and regulation. The understanding of lifespan perspective aids in interpreting the human development.

Stages of Human Development:

As indicated earlier, there are various stages of development. This section looks at each of the stage from a wider perspective.

Pre natal Developmental Stage: This stage is highly significant for psychologists, particularly, those who venture into the investigative study of early psychological development. This is because a lot of things occur in this developmental stage.

First and foremost, there is the development of senses. According to research, senses develop in the womb and by the time the fetus is 13 to 14 weeks of age, it can hear and see. At this time, neurons of the brain also develop. In addition, some primitive reflexes also occur before birth although these remain even after birth. Some scholars, however, hypothesize that most of these reflexes remain vestigial, as such, have little or no use in early human life. Some of the early reflexes, scholars say, form the building blocks for the infant sensorimotor development. For instance, research on the tonic neck reflex shows that, the reflex plays a critical role in the development. This occurs by bringing objects into the infant’s field of view. The theory of cognitive development presupposes that reflexes, such as, the walking reflex will normally get exchanged with more complex voluntary control at later stages during infancy. Later on in life, some of the primitive reflexes reappear. This will mostly occur when neurological conditions, for instance, dementia and traumatic lesions show.

Investigations involving Ultrasound show that, in fact, infants while in the womb have the ability to carry out a series of movements. The movements, according to Robert (2008), are more than the mere simple reflexes. Additionally, the fact that an infant recognizes the voice of the mother soon after birth confirms development of auditory perception.

Infancy Stage: Infancy refers to a developmental stage occurring from birth of a child until the end of the first year. This stage of development is not clearly known. As such, there are heated debates among developmental psychologists as to what exactly happens. Despite the arguments, there are some aspects of the regarding the stage that are relatively clear. Some of the common aspects of this stage include, sleeping. Usually, the newborn infants spent so much of their time sleeping. The cycle is normally that, soon after birth, the infant will tend to have an even sleep both during the day, and night. However, as time progresses, usually after a couple of months, the cycle changes becoming diurnal. During this stage, infants demonstrate six states, usually categorized into pairs. The stages include quiet sleep and active sleep, quiet walking, and active walking. In addition, there occurs fussing and crying.

Normally, in the three paired states, the response of infants to stimuli differs significantly. For instance, the vision of the infants is usually worse when compared to that of old children. Research, however, shows that this vision gets clear with time. Despite the poor vision, color perception is, however, extremely good, in fact, comparable to that witnessed in adults.

Hearing, as opposed vision, develops so much before birth. Careful analyses of infants’ hearing ability reveal that the newborns like pure complex sounds as opposed to pure tones, human speech to other sounds, native language to other languages just to mention a few. This preference, according to scholars, is a skill which the fetus learns is still in the womb.

As regards, taste and smell, infants tend to show a liking for pleasant smell and taste. On the other hand, infants also show disgust for bad taste and smell. Regarding taste, for example, newborns tend to like, the smell human milk, as opposed to bottle or, formula milk. Concerning smell, evidence indicates that older infants have a liking for their mothers’ smell, as opposed to that of others.

Evident shows that touch and pain senses present as developed well at birth. The explanation to this, according to Randi (1999), lies on well developed primitive reflexes and, the somatosensory cortex, usually seen at the time of birth. Concerning pain, infants feel pain, more or less similar to adults.

Early Childhood: Early childhood, according to David (1999) refers to the age when children begin attending preschool. During this time, children expand their social base. In the process, the children tend to associate and identify with the people that surround them. Normally, at this age, children have a passion for adventure. This stage identifies with the development of a sense of responsibility, self esteem, and creativity. This stage is crucial because, the experiences the children undergo help, to a large extent in shaping and grooming them for the future.

Middle Childhood: In this developmental stage, children demonstrate the ability to manipulate symbols through systematic and logical reasoning. At this stage, normally, the children develop operational thinking skills and, as such, can perform basic tasks assigned to them. In addition, the children show appreciable independence in their way of thinking. More often than not, the children get motivation for tasks completed successfully.

Adolescence: According to David (1999), adolescence represents a stage that lies in between the onset of puberty and adult life. Adolescence usually occurs before there is full commitment to an adult social role, for instance, parent, worker and many other roles. David (2009) attributes adolescence stage to the formation of personal and social identity. In addition, adolescents tend think and act formally. A characteristic of this stage is the return of ego to individuals. Normally the stage has three distinct parts i.e. early adolescence, mid adolescence, and late adolescence. Early adolescence occurs between the ages of 10 to 12 years. Mid adolescence occurs between the ages of 13 to 15 years while late adolescence occurs between the ages of 16 to 19 years. This is stage is famous for self discovery, usually characterized by questions such as “Who am I” and “What do I want to be?”

Early Adulthood: This stage acts like a reflection of skills learnt throughout other stages. It is a stage in which a person learns to be in intimate relationships, and can be able to form lasting friendships and love. How well a person relates with others at this stage usually depends on how best one develops the sense of identity.

Middle Adulthood: This is the phase of development that is characteristic of the ages between 40 and 60. During this phase of development, the middle aged adults normally experience a conflict stemming between generativity, and stagnation. In this stage, it is common for members to have a sense of adding value to their community, or at times. According to Jack (2008), middle adulthood stage witnesses decline or reduced muscular activity, reaction time, and cardiac output in men. Women, on the other hand, show a sharp decline in the hormone estrogen. Menopause is also a characteristic of this developmental stage. Significant changes occur in men, as well. These include Andropause and lowered testosterone levels. In a nutshell, Andropause is simply a hormonal fluctuation state, equivalent to menopause in women. Andropause has both physical and psychological effects in men in that during this stage there is a marked decline in sperm count. This, in turn, affects sexual responsiveness in men in that, it makes most of them require longer periods of penile stimulation in order to ejaculate.

Late Adulthood: This developmental stage composes of people with over 60 to 80 years. Usually during this age, conflict between integrity and despair becomes a norm for people who belong to this developmental stage. Depending on one’s achievement, there occurs of a sense of accomplishment or failure is a common feature in this stage. John (2006) says people belonging to this developmental stage have a general physical weakness and low immunity. As such, most of them are susceptible to diseases, such as, cancer, pneumonia, and many others. Mental disintegration also occurs in this developmental stage with conditions, such as, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease being quite common.

Influence of Developmental Theories on my thinking:

Piaget's Theories: Piaget, a French speaking Swiss theorist, researched so much on human developmental stages. Following his intense research, Piaget came up with many theories. Among his hypothesis is one in which he proposes that children learn by actively constructing knowledge through hands on experience. In this hypothesis, Baltes (1996) says, Piaget believes that adults also have a part to play in ensuring the smooth learning of their children. In particular, Piaget suggests that adults should give their children materials that can facilitate interaction and construction. The impact of his theories is clear in the development of learning. In particular, the theories influenced the sequencing of the curriculum in schools. In addition, the theories also influence the pedagogy of preschools that are spread the American continent.
Vygotsky’s Cultural History Theory: Vygotsky is another theorist who was highly active during the soviet era. Like Piaget, Vygotsky added his voice to the hypothesis that children learn through hands on experience. According to Vygotsky, children can understand new concepts easily when adults intervene early and give the necessary support. The support, according to Vygotsky, could either be moral or physical, and is commonly referred to as “Zone of Proximal Development.” Vygotsky adds that learning becomes easy when adults assist because children are usually unable to connect what they learn with reality. Through this theory, I tend to think that culture has a part in a child’s development and that the pattern of development in children often moves from the social level to the individual level. Therefore, in order to enhance performance of children, it is crucial for adults to create an environment that allows free interaction with children (Baltes, 2009).

Ecological Systems Theory: This theory is also called the Human Ecology theory. The theory, formulated by Urie Bronfenbrenner, addresses the different environmental systems, focusing on the relationship of systems with development. The four systems this theory addresses include the microsystem, mesosystem, ecosystem, and macrosystem. Normally, the systems integrate into each other in a two system way thus impacting on development. According to the theory, each of the system has features that significantly affect or shape development. These features include the norms, roles, and rules. In the course of studying human behavior, the ecological systems theory plays an integral role on the environments where humans live. This, according to my thinking, has a huge influence on how family, economic and political structures are formed. As such, the ecology of human development forms part of the life course beginning from childhood through to adulthood.

Attachment Theory: Attachment theory owes its origins to John Bowlby. The theory majors on relationships. In particular, attachment theory focuses on open, intimate, and emotionally vital relationships. According to research, attachment is a vital component for survival. Attachment, according to John, is a powerful biological system that evolved in order to ensure the survival of the newborns. Usually, when child feels threatened, he or she will most certainly move towards a caretaker. This is because, only then do a child gets a sense of physical, emotional and psychological safety.

There are some situations, however, that hinder successful attachment. This includes raising a child without the attention of a caregiver or at times, in situations that do not allow the child to interact with the caregiver. This usually results to despair, detachment and may lead to delay in intellectual development. In cases where such conditions continue for a significant length of time, effects, for example, aggression, psychosomatic disorders, and a paralleled increase in depression may occur in adults.

This theory influences one’s mind in that, through the theory, one realizes the importance of being close to a child and showing them love. This is because being close to a child enhances bonding and helps prevent the development of conditions, such as, aggression, psychosomatic disorders, and a paralleled increase in depression that may be as a result of failure to establish a salient relationship.

Influence of Early developmental Stages on Later Outcomes:

Usually, a child’s early development influences later outcomes in life. For instance, during the prenatal period, the mother may come into contact with several harmful agents, for example, teratogens. Agents of this type usually have a marked effect on the development of the child later in life. In a nutshell, a teratogen agent simply refers to a drug or a substance that interferes with proper development of the fetus. As such, the agent may cause birth defects or malformations on the growing fetus. This, more often than not, persists until old age, unless corrected at the earliest time possible.

Teratogenic agents fall into two categories, usually based on their etiology. Teratogenic agents are either environmental or genetic. Normally, each of the categories has its own pathological pathway and thus results to embryo pathology. According to World Health organization, about 20-25% of malformations observed in humans during the first year are as a result of genetic Teratogenic agents. Usually, birth defects caused by genetic Teratogenic agents are often as a result of genetic abnormality, chromosome rearrangement, deletion, and chromosome excess.

The world Health Organization, on the other hand, attributes about 10% of human malformations, mostly observed during the first year to result from environmental agents. Most of these malformations have similar characteristics, for instance, stage sensitivity, and genetic variability just to mention a few. Tetragens influence brain development, and impacts on how a person learns. As such, this influences the performance of the person. Cases of failure are common, and this may lead to frustration tolerance issues later in life.

Neurodevelopment Disorders: Neurodevelopment disorders, for example, Schizophrenia may influence a person’s life in later years. Schizophrenia, in particular, characterized by a disruption in the thought process and poor emotional responsiveness, begins during the prenatal phase of development. Some of the contributing factors include early environment, neurobiology, and social processes. In addition, genetics contributes to this mental disorder.

Individuals with schizophrenia more often than not become victims of violence later in life. The World Health Organization (2011) says “in the research carried out in 1999, the United States, about 12% of Americans believed that people with Schizophrenia become violent against others.” About 48% of the Americans believed that individuals with schizophrenia are “somewhat likely.” The reason for the conclusions given is that people with Schizophrenia, usually show the inability of making sound decisions. It is vital to note that while some of these individuals will commit violent crimes, others may indulge in non violent crimes.

Nutrition: Proper nutrition during the early stages has a considerable influence on the development of the child. Research shows that malnutrition during early stages of childhood impairs functional performance in adulthood. The impairment is not only physical, but also cognitive. In addition to this, malnutrition also decreases the intellectual potential and productivity in adulthood. The underlying reason for this is that, underfeeding a child during childhood stages means the brain does not get enough nutrients. As such, the brain does not develop well. This makes a child to have a low IQ. This affects the ability of the child to muster concepts in class effectively. Correcting the situation may require a lot of financial commitments. The effect of this continues to adulthood and often leads to failure in life. As such, a person may live a miserable life.

Management of Neurodevelopment Disorders:

Currently, there is no single approach that can be considered as an effective intervention towards the treatment of Schizophrenia. However, with a combination of different ways, it is possible to reduce the effects of the disorder. In the United States of America and other Western countries, antipsychotic medication remains the most effective way of decreasing the severity of Schizophrenia symptoms. However, according to Brooks (2005), almost all patients put on antipsychotic medications have to bear with the side effects of the medication. Normally, antipsychotics help in checking the symptoms of the disorder under control. Antipsychotics usually work by adjusting the balance of chemicals in the brain.

In cases, where, the symptoms are intense, in patient treatment, in a hospital setting, may necessary. This should, however, be done only if the patient is judged to be dangerous to others and to himself. After the patient regains conscience, he or she goes back to the family.

Social Interventions:

The aim of treating of people with Schizophrenia is to assist them to learn, and have the ability to do different activities in the day to day life. Among the challenges these people face include; cognitive deficits and paranoia. Cognitive deficit deprives these people of the ability to navigate places, such as, public transportation and locate their local clinics. Symptoms, for instance, paranoia, disrupt social interactions with these people. This, more often than not, scares the public from people with Schizophrenia. As such, training sessions geared towards enhancing their social skills is necessary.

Although not widely used, psychotherapy is also one of the most effective methods of treating Schizophrenia. This is simply because; treatment is mostly limited to psychiatric education. Various forms of psychotherapy exist, among them the following are considered highly effective.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This form of therapy usually targets certain symptoms. It aids in resolving issues related to self esteem, social functioning, and insight.

Cognitive Remediation Therapy: Another approach geared towards treating Schizophrenia is cognitive remediation therapy. The purpose of this form of therapy is remediating the neurocognitive deficits which may, at times, occur in Schizophrenia. Elizabeth (2009) says a study into cognitive remediation therapy revealed excellent improvement in psychomotor speed, and verbal memory. The study revealed further those patients, who were under this therapy, showed executive function.

Metacognitive Training: In simple terms, metacognition refers to reflecting on one’s thoughts. Following finding ruling the occurrence of metacognition deficit in people affected with Schizophrenia, metacognitive training has been suggested as the solution of metacognition deficit patients. In particular, metacognitive training, aids to sharpen the awareness of patients for a variety of cognitive biases. This training helps get rid of biases by replacing them with functional, cognitive strategies.

Family Therapy: Also called education therapy, family therapy focuses on the family system as having the ability to diagnose Schizophrenia. This is normally, in cases where, the intervention is long term. Family will usually offer substantial assistance when it comes to bearing the costs of treatment. In addition, the family provides the understanding required by the patient, and the sense of belonging.

Electroconvulsive Therapy: This form of therapy is not among the priority forms of treatment; however, it is vital in cases where other interventions prove to be ineffective. Electroconvulsive therapy is usually effective where symptoms of catatonia are present. As for schizophrenia, therapy comes in as the last option i.e. where other forms of treatment no longer work.

Assertive Community Treatment:

Assertive community treatment refers to strategy which usually offers comprehensive treatment of mental illnesses e.g. Schizophrenia. The treatment strategy combines the expertise of psychiatrists, highly trained nurses, and other related professionals in managing cases, such as, Schizophrenia occurring in communities. This model has been proven as being extremely effective as it sidelines the need for hospitalization, and readmissions back to the hospital. In addition to these interventions, it is vital that the peers and families of the patient become supportive to the patient.


Malnutrition is contributes so much towards the developmental challenges experienced in adulthood. In order to reduce the effects of poor nutrition, it is essential that the mother eats a balanced diet from the time of conception through to birth. The following may be helpful curbing the effects poor nutrition has towards healthy development.

A mother should, at all times, ensure that, her child gets enough omega 3 fatty acids in his or her diet. Research shows that Omega 3 fatty acids help in brain development. This will help alienate the problems that are experienced later in adulthood. In addition to assisting in brain development, Omega 3 fatty acid is also essential for both neurological and early visual development of the baby. This ensures that the baby is born healthy and as such, ensures proper development through to adulthood.

Teratogenic Agents:

Since Teratogenic agents are harmful and cause serious problems. It is advisable to keep off areas that might contain them. At all times, women should avoid drugs such as alcohol, and all kinds of substances that are classified as teratogens (James, 2008).

In conclusion, lifespan development remains an essential subject in Psychology. An understanding of the different stages can help curb some of the problems experienced later in life. In order to prevent dire outcomes later in life, it is advisable that expectant mothers get information on how to help prevent the same. In addition to that, mothers should also be, taught ways to detect abnormalities in their children.


Baltes, Lippset. (1996) Lifespan Developmental Psychology: Research and Theory Editors. New York: Pearson Press.

Brooks, David. (2005). Neurodevelopmental Disorders. New York: McGraw-Hill Press.

David, Shaffer. (2009). Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence. London: Oxford University Press.

Elizabeth, Hutchison. (2009). Dimensions of Human Behaviors: Person and Environment. London: SAGE Press.

Jack, Botwinick.(2008). Aging and Behavior: A Comprehensive Integration of Research Findings. New York: University of Michigan Press.

James, Schardein. (2008). Drugs as Teratogens. New York: University of Michigan Press.

John, Cavanaugh.(2006). Adult Development and Aging. New York: Academic Press.

Randi, Jenssen. (1999). Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Diagnosis and Treatment. London: Oxford University Press.

Robert, Kail. (2008). Human Development: A Life Span View. New York: Cengage Learning Press.

The World Health Organization (2011).”Children and Neurodevelopmental Behaviors.” Retrieved on 15 June 2012 at,…...

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