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.

Development describes the growth of humans throughout the lifespan, from conception to death. It refers to development as patterns of change over time. It does not just involve the biological and physical aspects of growth, but also the cognitive and social aspects associated with development.

The scientific study of human development seeks to understand and explain how and why people change throughout life. This field examines change across a broad range of topics including motor skills and other psycho-physiological processes. Cognitive development involves areas such as problem-solving, moral understanding, and conceptual understanding; language acquisition; social, personality, and emotional development; and self-concept and identity formation. Growth is defined as an increase in size; development is defined as a progression toward maturity.

Life span development includes issues such as the extent to which development occurs through the gradual accumulation of knowledge versus stage-like development, or the extent to which children are born with innate mental structures versus learning through experience. Many researchers are interested in the interaction between personal characteristics, the individual’s behaviour, and environmental factors including social context, and their impact on development.

The scientific study of development is important not only to psychology, but also to sociology, education, and health care. By better understanding how and why people change and grow, one can then apply this knowledge to help people live up to their full potential.

Issues in Life Span Development

A number of major issues have emerged in the study of human development. These issues include the following: Is development due more to genetics or environment? Does development occur slowly and smoothly, or do changes happen
in stages? Do early childhood experiences have the greatest impact on development or are later events equally important?

Continuity and Discontinuity

The question of whether development is solely and evenly continuous, or whether it is marked by age-specific periods.
Developmental Psychologists who advocate the continuous model describe development as a relatively smooth process, without sharp or distinct stages, through which an individual must pass.

That is, development is conceived of as a process of the gradual accumulation of a behaviour, skill, or knowledge. In contrast, those who hold to the second view would suggest that developmental change is best characterised as discontinuous
in nature.

They describe development as a series of discrete stages, each of which is characterised by what had gone on in the past and how well the child was able to master the developmental tasks of that period etc. These theorists suggest that behaviours or skills often change qualitatively across time and that new organisation of behaviours, skills, or knowledge emerge in a rather abrupt or discrete fashion.

Stability and Change

Another issue that is of importance to developmental psychologists is the issue of stability versus change. Whether the development is best characterised by stability, for example, does a behaviour or trait such as shyness stay stable in its expression over time or change example: Could a person’s degree of shyness fluctuate across the life span?

Nature vs. Nurture

Whether the behaviour ultimately developed by the child is due to hereditary factors or environmental factors. This issue of great for psychologists. The debate over the relative contributions of inheritance and the environment is one of the oldest issues in both philosophy and psychology. This debate concerns the relative degree to which heredity and learning affect the behaviour of the individual.

Both genetic traits and environmental circumstances are involved in an individual’s development, although the amount of influence the two has is not clearly evident. In fact, it may be stated that the individual and his or her circumstances decide how much of the behaviour is influenced by heredity factors and how much by environmental factors.

Today, most psychologists believe that it is an interaction between these two forces that causes development. Some
aspects of development are distinctly biological, such as puberty. However, the onset of puberty can be affected by environmental factors such as diet and nutrition.

Stages of Development (In short)

Often, developmental stages are defined by milestones. The term milestone refers to the development that has to take place according to the age of the child. For instance, almost all children start standing and walking at the age of 1 year and
more, start saying a few words by the time they are one and a half to two years etc.

That a developmental stage has been successfully passed is indicated by the child mastering the developmental tasks of the particular period of development. Often, special milestones mark children’s accomplishments, such as walking in infancy and entering school in early childhood and these milestones can help mark children’s movement inside and between developmental stages.

Children build new skills and develop new skills on top of old skills and develop progressively from stage to stage; each stage is cumulative. Each stage of development depends on the mastery that had taken place in the previous stage of development and the present stage of development paves the way for mastering tasks in the next stage of development. Thus each stage depends on one another for progress in development. It is the tasks and skills children master that truly identify what stage they are in. Because of this, different children of the same age can be expected to be at different developmental stages.

Children’s development progresses at its own rate. Also, children can develop different channels at different rates. For example, a twelve-year-old’s body may have already gone through puberty and may look like an adolescence’s body, but that child may not have the cognitive and social abilities of an adolescent quite yet. It will take a little longer for their mind to catch up with the developments in the body.

Children reach milestones across a wide range of ages. Sometimes children will appear to even skip an entire developmental stage in some channels as they advance quickly in a short amount of time.

Developmental delays can be caused by disease, injury, mental disability, problems developing in the womb, environmental reasons, trauma or unknown factors.

It is generally agreed that there are periods in children’s lives in which they become biologically mature enough to gain certain skills that they could not have easily picked up prior to that maturation. For example, only at the age of 3 years, the child may be able to have such muscular coordination that he can learn to write very few alphabets when taught so. In other words, there is a certain readiness needed to learn a skill and children develop that readiness only at a particular age. For instance, you cannot expect a 3 months old baby to stand on his two legs as it is impossible due to the immaturity of the organs that are needed for standing.

Children are ready and open to developing certain things during specific stages but they need a proper stimulating environment to develop the concerning abilities. Infants can grow in length and weight if proper and adequate nutrition is made
available to them. If however there is a lack of nutrition the child will not grow as expected. This is why it is important for parents to understand how their children are growing and what nutrition to be given at what time etc.

There are children who do not develop as expected, and this could be due to not only physical illnesses but also in certain cases due to sheer neglect by the parent and blatant abuse of the child by the parent.

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