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History and Fundamentals

Developmental Psychology

Human Development

  • The scientific study of age-related changes in behavior, thinking, emotion, and personality.
  • Interdisciplinary- psychology, sociology, anthropology, biology, medicine, neuroscience, education, etc. 
  • 3 Domains
      • Physical Development – motor skills, body size, physical health, etc.
      • Cognitive Development – Intellectual abilities, problem solving, creativity, language, etc
      • Emotional and Social Development – Emotional communication, self-understanding, interpersonal skills, moral reasoning, etc.
Periods of Development
  • Prenatal Development (conception – birth)
    • most rapid time of change
  • Infancy and Toddlerhood (birth- 2 years)
    • Emergence of motor, perceptual, and intellectual capacities (beginning of language)
    • Infancy – spans the first year
    • Toddlerhood – spans the second year
  •  Early Childhood (2 – 6 years)
    • Motor skills are refined
    • Cognitive maturity (thought and language) develop at incredible pace
    • Sense of morality becomes evident
    • Establish ties with peers
  • Middle Childhood (6 – 11 years)
    • Master responsibilities that resemble adulthood
    • Academic knowledge and skills (read, writing, math)
    • Greater understanding of the self
  • Adolescence ( 11-18 years)
    • Puberty
      • Transition from childhood to adulthood
      • Reach sexual maturity
    • Thought becomes abstract and idealistic
    • Begin to establish autonomy from family
    • Begin to define persona values and goals
  • Emerging Adulthood ( 18-25 years)
    • New developmental period in industrialized nations
      • Due to prolonged transition to adulthood.
    • Exploration of love, career, and personal values before making enduring commitments
  • Early Adulthood ( 20 to 40 years)
  • Middle Adulthood ( 40 – 65 years)
  • Late Adulthood ( 65 to death)

Basic Issues

  • Theory—an orderly, integrated set of statements that describes, explains, and predicts behavior.
    • Guide and give meaning to what we observe
    • Verified by research
      • Must be tested by established research procedures
  • No single theory can explain the physical, cognitive, emotional and social changes a person goes through.


Nature vs Nurture

  • Nature—inborn biological givens
    • Hereditary information received by parents
  • Nurture—environmental forces
    • Culture, parenting style, SES, etc.
  • Stability—children will remain the same as adults
  • Plasticity—open to change in response to influential experiences


One Course of Development or Many

  • Development is viewed by contemporary theorists as multi-layered and complex
    • Beyond heredity and biological makeup
    • Considering cultural diversity more than ever


Historical Foundations

  • John Locke (1632-1704)—viewed children as “tabula rasa” Latin for blank slate
    • Children are shaped entirely by experience
    • Believed in reinforcing with praise instead of sweets
    • Opposed physical punishment
      • Causes fear and anger
  • Jean-Jaques Rousseau (1712-1778)—viewed children as “noble savages”
    • Naturally endowed with a sense of right and wrong
  • Adult training harms children’s innate morality

  • Believed adults should be receptive to children’s needs from infancy through adolescence

  • Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
    • Survival of the fittest
    • Physical and personality traits are genetically inherited
  • Normative Period—measures of behavior are taken on large numbers of individuals and age-related averages are computed to represent typical development.
    • Foundation of child-study movement
    • Development is genetically determined; process unfolds automatically



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Psychology 041 – Life Span Psychology

1.  History and Fundamentals