From the time of conception until death, humans constantly change. Even though some of the changes result from chance incidents and unique to his or her choices, most of changes throughout life’s different stages are due to the common biological and psychological make up. Life-Span development is the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of humans through all life stages that consist of conception through childhood, adolescence, and early through late adulthood. Through characteristics, domains and periods, the lifespan perspective is evaluated.
Life-span development begins with conception and continues all throughout life from changes that begin at conception and last until death. Children go through many changes throughout life that develop over time such as physical growth, cognitive development and psychosocial development including emotional and social development. The physical development consists of body and organ growth, physical signs of aging and motor abilities. Cognitive development is responsible for the way children think and perceive the world through continuities in perception, language, learning memory and problem solving. Psychosocial display changes in personal and interpersonal development such as emotions and social relationships (Sigelman & Rider, 2005, pp. 2, 3). Emotional development enables children to feel emotions such as embarrassment, guilt, or pride. Social development affects how children understand friendship, sharing and interaction with others. Each development interacts and influences one another (Kuther, 2000).
Characteristics of the Lifespan Perspective
Development has unique features depending on the individual. Improvements in nutrition, health and medical knowledge have increased the average life expectancy. The lifespan perspective is made up of characteristics which are lifelong, multidirectional, multidimensional, plastic, multidisciplinary, contextual and involving growth, maintenance, and regulation. Development is lifelong meaning that no age period is supreme and is also faced with challenges and adjustments which are multidimensional. This is affected by biological, psychological and social forces. Lifespan development is also multidirectional meaning that continued growth as well as decline affects development. Researchers point out that development is plastic which has the capacity for change. A child whose intellectual development is diminished from malnutrition can regain intellect if they are given a proper diet and positive experiences. Lastly, development is highly diverse and influenced by many forces such as biological, historical, social, and cultural (Berk, 2007 chap. 1 p. 8-10.
Human Development Domains and Periods
The three major domains of development each affecting each other is biological, cognitive and psychosocial. The biological domain represents bodily changes, maturation and growth. The cognitive domain consists of mental processes of imaging, perceiving, reasoning and problem solving. This leaves the psychosocial domain, the emotions personality and social interactions and expectations. Within these domains, lie eight periods within human development.
The lifespan development is divided into eight major periods of human development consisting of the infancy and toddler, early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood (Boyd & Bee, 2006, p.7). Throughout life, a human will proceed through each stage. As the newborn grows into toddler, thinking, language, and personality characterize these individuals. In the middle years, family school and friends along with personality and cognitive skills become important. The transition of childhood to adulthood shows sexual development to be apparent leading to thoughts of marriage and career. As adults age the thought of retirement become apparent.
Contemporary Concerns related to Lifespan Development
Concerns related to lifespan development are nature versus nurture and continuity and discontinuity. For centuries, researchers thought changes in humans were due to forces whether inside or out. Contributions and experimental factors of biological processes are known as nature versus nurture (Boyd & Bee, 2006, p.7).
Those who are on the side of nature believe that children are born with certain behaviors that are innate and are inborn biases. These patterns may be the product of genetic or their prenatal environment. Either way, babies are not born as blank slates. For those who lean toward nurture, the effects of certain experiences depend on the individual’s perception. With continuity and discontinuity, the debate is based on whether the age-related change is primarily a matter of amount or degree or type or kind. A child’s number of friends differs depending on age. The age related differences are categorized as universal, group specific and individual changes (Boyd & Bee, 2006, pp, 9-11.). Children progress gradually through different stages of cognitive development. Intelligence and personality traits throughout childhood can merge into adulthood. This continuity has room for change. A child appearing intellectual can lose this trait if they become abused and neglected. All humans experience universal change. This change is unique to a certain age. The group specific changes tend to occur in those with similar cultural and historical experiences.
While individual changes are due to genetic factor and the timing of experiences, everyone is unique to his or her own genes such as physical characteristics, genetic disorders intelligence and personality (Boyd & Bee, 2006 pp. 9-11).
The science of life-span development continues to evolve over the years making development a lifelong process. Longevity has increased and many have begun to realize the importance of each age period of life. Through interaction with their physical environments and loving parents, children progress towards milestones. Individuals become unique and throughout life, people are shaped by the time and energy invested. As time goes by, people change and display different patterns of change with age.