CONCEPT OF LIFE SPAN DEVELOPMENT

Definition of Life Span Development

We can define life span development as

“The pattern of change that begins at conception and continues through the life cycle.”

Lifespan development can also be defined as a methodical, intra-individual change associated with progressions corresponding to age. The development progresses in a manner implicating the level of functioning.

Life-span developmental psychology is the field of psychology that involves the examination of both constancy and change in human behaviour across the entire life span, that is, from conception to death (Baltes, 1987). Development occurs in different domains, such as biological (changes in our physical being), social (changes in our social relationships), emotional (changes in our emotional understanding and experiences), and cognitive (changes in our thought processes).

Some developmental psychologists prefer to restrict the notion of development only to changes that lead to qualitative reorganisation in the structure of behaviour, skill or ability (Crain, 2000).

According to one other view (Educational Foundation, 2001), life span development is a process beginning at conception that continues until death. The progression initiates with the emergence of a fetus from a one-celled organism. As the unborn child enters the world, the environment in which the child exists begins to influence the child’s development.

According to Levinson, the life cycle consists of four 25 year eras. The main developmental periods are child and adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood and late adulthood. Each era’s transition involves a necessary change in the character of the individual’s life and sometimes takes up to six years to complete the change (Smith, 2009).

The study of human development began with Darwin and other evolutionists. Darwin thought if he studied human development he could further prove his theory of evolution (Boyd & Bee, 2006). Rutter and Rutter (1992) used the following as a working definition of development in relation to humans. They stated that life span development is a systematic, organised, intra-individual change that is clearly associated with generally expected age-related progressions and which is carried forward in some way that has implications for a person’s pattern or level of functioning at some later time.

Periods of Development

Human development periods span the lifetime from conception to the end of life. These periods are as follows, prenatal, early, middle and late childhood, puberty, adolescence, young adulthood, early, middle and later adulthood old age. As the child grows and approaches adulthood the periods are adolescence, early, middle and late adulthood. Numerous theories have been put forward about the periods of development and the movement from one period to the next stage of development.

Various theories attempt to define how the movement from one level to the next level of development occurs (Boyd & Bee, 2006). The periods of development are given below. Each period has certain important tasks to accomplish by the individual and depending on the success or completion of the tasks, the movement to the next stage of development take place. These periods are:

  • Prenatal
  • Infancy
  • Early childhood
  • Middle and late childhood
  • Adolescence
  • Early adulthood
  • Middle adulthood
  • Late adulthood

The process of development involves the interaction of biological, cognitive and social-emotional processes.

Human Development Domains

The domains of development are categories used by scientists. The categories include physical, cognitive and social domains which all characterise human development. The physical domain is characterised by how humans grow and change physically, at all stage of development especially during childhood and adolescence. When the physical changes are maximum, this domain includes how humans view the world as development progresses as a result of physical development and interactions.

The psychological domain focuses on the adjustment of the individual to the environment. Adjustment is the process that is essential for the survival of the organism. The child has to learn to suck, ingest food, eliminate, breath on their own, eliminate on their own etc, which activities were taken care of when the child was still within the mother’s womb.

The adjustment also is required as the child grows up to learn to eat on own, eliminate as is required and not as the child wishes. The child has to learn to talk, walk, express, communicate and so on. All these adjustments are again necessary if the child has to survive.

Adjustment to self, others and environment are important tasks that become increasingly complex as the child grows ups, and which the child has to accomplish. Success leads to healthy adjustment which failure leads to maladjustment. Adjustments in the way the world is viewed as the body develops are also included in this domain.

The cognitive domain focuses on learning, attention, perception and many etc. The manner in which learning takes place and how the child makes progress in school and home is of great importance in the child’s growth and development. How these components of the cognitive domain functions and to improve indicate the progress the child makes. The social domain deals with the adjustment to people that is with others and learn the right ways of interactions. The cognitive domain is concerned with how learning occurs and why memory deteriorates during old age.

The social domain contains adjustment in variables within social situations such as personality research, social skills and developing relationships. All the domains operate together and are affected by each other.

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