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CHAPTER 1

UNDERSTANDING LIFE-SPAN
HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
Learning Objectives

• How do developmental
scientists define
development?
• What does the typical
path of development
look like across the life
span?
What is Development?

• Systematic changes
and continuities
– In the individual
– Between conception
and death
• “Womb to Tomb”
• Three broad domains
– Physical, Cognitive,
Psychosocial
Other Developmental Definitions
• Growth: Physical changes that occur from birth to maturity
• Aging: Positive and negative changes in the mature
organism
• Maturation: The biological unfolding of the individual genetic
plan
• Learning: Relatively permanent changes due to
environmental experiences
Age Grades, Age Norms, and the Social
Clock
• Age Grade: Socially defined age
groups
– Statuses, roles, privileges,
responsibilities
– Adults can vote, children can’t
• Age Norms: Behavioral
expectations by age
– Children attend school
• Social Clock: When things
should be done
– Early adulthood – time for 1st
marriages
• “Off time” experiences are more
difficult
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Learning Objective
• How has our understanding of different periods of the
life span changed historically?
Phases of the Life Span
• Before 1600: Children viewed
as miniature adults
• Modern View: Children
innocent, need protection
• Average life expectancy in
1900 was 47 year
• In 2000 it was 77.5 years
– Females: White=80,
Black=76
– Males: White=75, Black=69
• Increasing population - age 65
and older
Learning Objective
• What are the main components of the nature-nurture
issue?
Framing the Nature/Nurture Issue
• Nature: heredity
– Maturational processes
guided by genes
– Biologically based
predispositions
– Biological unfolding of
genes
• Nurture: environment
– Learning: experiences
cause changes is
thoughts, feelings, and
behaviors
• Interactionist view: nature &
nurture interact
Learning Objectives
• What are the features of the bioecological model?
• Why is this perspective important to our
understanding of development?
The Bioecological Model
• Microsystem: Immediate environment
• Mesosystem: Relationships
• Exosystem: Social Systems
• Macrosystem Culture
• Chronosystem: Changes occur in a time
frame
• This is an interactionist model
• Urie Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model of development pictures environment as a series of nested
structures. The microsystem refers to relations between the developing person and her immediate
environment, the mesosystem to connections among microsystems, the exosystem to settings that affect but
do not contain the individual, the macrosystem to the broader cultural context of development, and the
chronosystem to the patterning over time of historical and life events. Researchers face many challenges in
studying the developing person in context.
Learning Objectives
• What is the science of life-span development?
• What are the three goals of developmental
psychology?
• What are the seven assumptions of the modern life-
span perspective on human development?
Goals of Studying Life-Span Development

• Description
– Normal development,
individual differences
• Explanation
– Typical and individually
different development
• Optimization
– Positive development,
enhancing human capacities
– Prevention and overcoming
difficulties
Methods of Studying Life-Span Development
• Historical
– Baby Biographies: Charles Darwin
– Questionnaires: G. Stanley Hall
• Key Assumptions of Modern Life-Span
Perspectives
– Lifelong, multidirectional process
– Gain and loss and lifelong plasticity
– Historical/cultural contexts, multiple
influences
– Multi-disciplinary studies
Learning Objectives
• What is the scientific “mindset”?
• How is the scientific method used to study
development?
Unique Challenges in Developmental Research

• Infants and young children


– Attention, instruction,
answering questions
may be difficult
• Elderly Adults
– Possible sensory
impairments
– Discomfort being
studied, tested
Conducting Developmental Research

• Self-reports: interview,
questionnaires, tests
• Behavioral Observations
(Experiments)
– Naturalistic
• Advantage: natural
setting
• Disadvantage: conditions
not controlled
– Structured (Lab)
• Disadvantage: cannot
generalize to natural
settings
• Advantage: conditions
controlled
Learning Objective

• What are the essential


features of the
experimental method?
• What sorts of
information can be
gathered from this type
of study?
• What are its strengths
and weaknesses?
The Scientific (Experimental) Method

• Three Critical Features


– 1. Manipulation of independent variable
– 2. Random assignment of individuals to
treatment conditions
– 3. Experimental control
• Quasi-Experiment: No random assignment
• The scientific method in action
Learning Objective
• What are the important features of the correlational
method?
• What sorts of information can be gathered from this
type of study?
• What are its strengths and weaknesses?
The Correlational Method
• Determine if 2 or more variables
are related
• Correlation: A measure of the
relationship
– Can range from +1.0 to –1.0
– Positive: variables move in
same direction
– Negative: variables move in
opposite dir.
• No relationship if correlation is 0
• Cannot establish a causal
relationship
Learning Objective

• What are the


advantages and
disadvantages of the
cross-sectional and
longitudinal designs?
• How does the
sequential design
resolve the weaknesses
of these designs?
Developmental Research Designs
• Cross-Sectional Designs
– >1 cohorts or age-groups
studied
– 1 time of testing
– Studying age differences
at any one time
• Longitudinal Designs
– <1 cohort
– +1 time of testing
– Study changes across
time in one cohort
• Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of development from age 30 to age 70.
Age, Cohort, and Time of Measurement Effects

• Age effects: Changes which


occur due to age
• Cohort Effects: Born in one
historical context
– Changes due to differences
in society
– Disadvantage of cross-
sectional design
• Time of measurement effects:
Historical
– Take place at time of data
collection
– Disadvantage of longitudinal
design
• Conflicting findings of hypothetical cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of
gender-role attitudes. How could the two studies produce different age trends?
Sequential Designs
• A combination of cross-sectional and longitudinal designs
• Advantages of both designs
• Gives information about
– Which age-related trends are age effects
– Which age-related trends are truly cohort effects
– Which age-related trends are a result of historical events
• A sequential study. This study begins in 1970 with a group of 30-year-olds studied longitudinally every
10 years thereafter. In 1980, a second longitudinal study is launched, in 1990 a third, and so on. Notice
that at a point in time such as 2000 (blue shading) age groups can be compared in a cross sectional
study. Notice too that 30-year-olds from different cohorts can be compared (orange shading).
Learning Objective
• What special challenges do developmental scientists
face?
• What challenges arise in studying development and
how can scientists address these issues?
Issues in Developmental Studies
• Random sampling
– Increases likelihood that
sample is representative of
population
• Protecting rights of research
participants
– Must assess the benefit to
risk balance
• Researcher responsibilities
– Informed consent,
debriefing, protection from
harm, confidentiality
Cultural and Subcultural Sensitivity in Research

• Variety of contexts
considered
• Culturally sensitive
methods &
measurements
• SES particularly
important
• Ethnocentrism
Historical Changes in Periods of Lifespan
• Childhood
– Pressure to grow up
– Early exposure to adult
issues
• Adolescence
– A transition & delayed
adulthood
• Emerging Adulthood
– Identity exploration in
preparation for adulthood
• Adulthood
– By 2030, >20% will be over
age 65