Human Development in Different Perspectives Across the Life Span: Differences and Similarities between Childhood Versus Adulthood

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Updated: Aug 21, 2023
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Throughout this paper, we have explored approaches to human development from different perspectives across the life span, such as in adolescence, childhood, adulthood, and so on. This subject is primarily investigated in terms of mental functioning and social relationships by developmental psychology in this chapter. To understand better, we have studied the stages in human life as prenatal, infancy, early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood, and late adulthood. Given that developmental research includes various methods, ethics hold significant importance.

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After determining what an “average” person is through normative investigations, the differences between developmental and chronological age become more observable. Among the several types of research design, longitudinal and cross-sectional designs are two notable examples.

Whereas longitudinal design allows us to observe participants at every stage under the same conditions and circumstances, cross-sectional design enables us to conduct more diverse research. From the moment a male’s sperm cell fertilizes a female’s egg, there are numerous physical developmental stages until birth, such as the germinal stage, zygote, embryonic stage, and fetal stage. Throughout these stages, the potential human is much more vulnerable to external and environmental factors than others. For instance, teratogens – alcohol, drugs, cocaine, cigarettes, and so on – are more likely to damage physical and especially brain development. Babies are born with survival reflexes such as rooting and sucking. According to a study, babies can recognize their mother’s voice when they can’t recognize their father’s. As babies begin crawling, they are also able to differentiate depths.

Upon closely examining “Growth and Maturation in Childhood,” we encounter two terms that we must become familiar with: sensitive and critical periods. A sensitive period defines an optimal range, while a critical period specifies an exact age range for acquiring appropriate environmental experiences. The cephalocaudal and proximodistal principles are general guidelines for children’s physical development. Furthermore, the physical developmental process transitions from gross motor skills to fine motor skills. In adolescence, significant changes occur in the human body, such as limb growth due to hormones and puberty. Additionally, during adolescence, the limbic system evolves before the frontal lobes, leading to potential risky behaviors. In adulthood, aspects such as vision, hearing, and reproductive abilities decline. Most women experience menopause around the age of 50. Our book defines cognitive development as the study of the processes and products of the mind as they emerge and change over time.

According to Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development, there are four stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operations, and formal operations. Throughout these stages, different characteristics and major accomplishments are observed. Piaget defines the mental structures as schemes. He explains that assimilation and accommodation are basic processes that work in tandem in cognitive development. Their balance eases the decrease of children’s dependencies. Object permanence is developed at around three months of age. Preoperational children experience egocentrism and centration. The lemonade study demonstrates a characteristic of the concrete operations period, which Piaget defined as conservation. Brought about by conversation, reversibility in mental operations and physical actions is observed.

Piaget’s theory is no longer sufficient to explain cognitive development. As a result, there are numerous contemporary perspectives on this subject. One of these is the theory of mind, which deals with understanding others’ cognitive experiences. To observe this, there are tasks such as Diverse Desires, Hidden Emotion, and others. Another focus is the role of social interactions, as explained by Lev Vygotsky. His study demonstrated that culture significantly impacts cognitive development, particularly in children. Research on cognitive development in adulthood, which focuses on intelligence, has shown a greater decline in fluid intelligence than in crystallized intelligence. However, according to the “Use It or Lose It” principle, adults who maintain social, intellectual, and physical activities are more likely to retain their fast processing speed on cognitive tasks. A 2010 study found a positive correlation between computer use and cognitive development in adulthood. It is also important to note that memory functioning tends to deteriorate in adulthood.

By the age of 6, children are far more likely to acquire language, understand speech and words, learn word meanings, and comprehend grammar than at any other stages in their lifespan. Such significant advancements are defined as the “naming explosion.” Tomasello posits that every child possesses an innate language capacity. Therefore, a newborn baby can learn any language in the world. Additionally, employing special forms of speech, such as infant-directed and child-directed speech, can facilitate their learning processes. Noam Chomsky argued that mental structures are inborn; acquiring grammar also incorporates language-making capacity and overregularization. Turning our attention to social development, Erikson’s psychological stages provides an excellent classification system. He identified stages across the lifespan, which encompass individual crises, challenges, and ages. According to Erikson, age-range crises include trust versus mistrust (birth to 1 year), autonomy versus self-doubt (1-3 years), initiative versus guilt (3-6 years), competence versus inferiority (6 years to adolescence), identity versus role confusion (adolescence), intimacy versus isolation (young adulthood), generativity versus stagnation (middle adulthood), and ego integrity versus despair (late life).

Obviously, every stage has its own problems and challenges. Thus, we should be respectful of others’ challenges and problems, even if we have passed these crises before. In childhood, social development has different parameters, such as temperament and attachment. Whereas temperament depends on babies’ personalities, attachment depends on the main caregivers’ behavior. Also, secure or insecure (avoidant or anxious) attachments affect future adults’ loving relationships. Parents’ demandingness and responsiveness affect their children’s whole life. Being affected by these parameters results in authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, or neglectful behaviors. Also, being raised in orphanages can cause insecure attachments due to deprivation. Whereas in childhood the family has a major impact on social development, in adulthood its impact declines and peer relationships gain more importance than in childhood. Adolescence is classified as identity diffusion, foreclosure, moratorium, and identity achievement by James Marcia. In adulthood, the needs of social development are defined as love and work by Abraham Maslow. Intimacy and generativity affect this stage.

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Human Development In Different Perspectives Across The Life Span: Differences And Similarities Between Childhood Versus Adulthood. (2022, Jun 22). Retrieved from