Lifespan development is a field of study that involves growth patterns stability and change in one’s behavior in the whole stretch of life. The definition does not fully capture the intricate process of the study. The study employs scientific approaches to establish these trends. We need a close examination of the elements of the definition above. In examining stability, growth and change, lifespan development checks the assumptions about the course and nature of the development of a human being. This is a scientific way of establishing the facts in the study. Scientists evolve development theories and apply systematic scientific methods to establish the exactness of these assumptions. The focus of the studies is the development of human beings (FLDNMC, 2010).Lifespan Development scientists select a topical area of focus and consider the age range of study. The span normally spreads out in broad age range segments. These segments include the prenatal range that defines the period from conception to the birth, infancy and toddlerhood (from birth to 3 years); pre-school (3 to 6 years); mid childhood (6 to 12 years); young adulthood (20 to 40 years); mid adulthood (40 to 65 years old); and late adulthood (65 years to death). The broad periods that are generally accepted by lifespan development are basically social constructs. This means that they are notions of reality accepted by society and is a function of societal life at a given time. Therefore, the age ranges and the periods are arbitrary concepts, inspired by culture (FLDNMC, 2010). Culture in this case refers to the large spectrum of resources; material, psychological and symbolic resources that have been developed by humans over generations. These resources constitute human development, as it is now (Cole, 1996; Damon, 1996; D’Andrade, 1995; Tomasello, 1999; Valsiner & Lawrence, 1997). The cultural resources include socialization tactics, motivational dispositions, cognitive skills, physical structures, the economics world and the physical and medical technology.
The initial argument states that for the process of ontogenesis to have achieved higher levels of functionality and stretch to longer life spans; physically or culturally, there was a conjoint increase: evolutionary in nature in the dissemination and richness of culture. Therefore, Human development is linked to cultural evolution and its effect on genetic changes and the variety of environments of life that people interact with in the process development of and ontogenesis. If we expect human ontogenesis to stretch the life of adults, it will be important culture related resources and factors to emerge to fructify (Baltes, Lindenberger, & Staudinger, 2007).
The first two years of birth constitute toddlerhood. This period is characterised by a marked reduction in helplessness. However, this does not mean that such helplessness disappears overnight. Rather, it is a process towards reducing dependence. Such a person is a remarkable different character from the point of birth when they attain their second stage of evolution. Toddler is a preferred term lately because of the generalisation of helplessness that comes with the term “baby.” A toddler refers to a child who has attained sufficient body coordination and control to be independent to a certain extent (Life Span Development, n.d.). The process of growth among babies involves both physical and psychological changes and subsequently leads to a change in capabilities. Babies reduce their top heaviness with time from the point of birth. The limbs develop proportionally to the size of the head with time. The proportional changes occur alongside growth in both height and weight. The first year of toddlerhood marks relatively faster growth. The baby has pronounced and improved abilities to recognize and respond to objects and people. Babies are often able to perceive a range of phenomenon and communicate their wants and needs in a more decipherable manner (by the targeted people) (Life Span Development, n.d.)..
The early experiences influence a baby’s later social relationships and behavior patterns. The home is important in shaping a baby’s personality. There is no evidence that people are born antisocial or social. The introvert and extrovert tendencies observed among individuals are a result of upbringing (Life Span Development, n.d.).
Basic emotions are common occurrences among humans and all other primates. These are instrumental in promoting survival instincts. These emotions are most apparent in an individual’s facial expressions. They include such emotions as interest, fear, anger, sadness, happiness and disgust.
The question that suffices is whether infants come around already equipped with ability to discern emotions. two basic arousal global states babies manifest at birth are the attraction to pleasant stimulation versus the withdrawal from unpleasant stimulation. There are tale-tale signs of a few other emotions though. Emotions become more pronounced and organized over time. If there are depressive signals from parents and they continue over a significant period, the child may be affected emotionally and socially. By the time the child reaches six months after birth, we can easily tell decipher the affectations (Life Span Development, n.d.).
Toddlerhood Is a Dangerous Age
It is a fact that danger lurks at every stage in life. However, the dangers that affect toddlers are significantly more than those that affect others. These range from psychological issues to physical ones. Illness and accidents are the most severe of these dangers since they often cause permanent effects such as death or disabilities. Patterns of behaviour, attitudes and interests develop during toddlerhood. Psychological problems can arise if toddler is exposed to negative, undesirable conditions (Life Span Development, n.d.).
When the dependency of a child ceases, at around two years of age, childhood starts and stretches up till the period of sexual maturity. This age is about thirteen years for girls and fourteen for boys. This period ushers in psychological and physical changes (Life Span Development, n.d.).
According to Vygotsky, learning among children occurs in a range of proximal development. This means that they encounter a range of tasks that may be too difficult for them to master but soon catch up with the help of other children of an older range.
Sammy’s mother helps him solve a puzzle. She puts the difficulty of the puzzle within the range of her son’s abilities. In order to achieve that, she embarks on scaffolding and readjusting the support offered in the teaching session to suit her son’s current performance level. When a child has developed cues on how to proceed with the task, the adult supporter splits the task in to small manageable units that are easier to handle. Experienced coaches withdraw support once the child increases their competence in solving problems. Consequently, such children incorporate the instructions in their private speech. They proceed to use the private resource set in their independent efforts in motion (Life Span Development, n.d.).
Social and Emotional Development
Early years present the perfect opportunity for setting the stage for an impressive growth and development among children. It is also a period of much vulnerability. There is evidence from research regarding this fact. Negative childhood experiences have been shown to affect an individual in adulthood; psychologically, socially and even physically.
Caregivers have, therefore an important role to play in a child’s development. If the caregivers are substance-abusers or, generally, irresponsible, they will, negatively, affect the child’s development. A dysfunctional family leads to complications in a child’s growth process.
A person’s emotional health is known to be affected significantly by a poor attachment to the mother during toddlerhood and childhood (Cooper, Masi, & Vick, 2009).
Maltreatment of children
Although this has been around for long, it has only gained the attention of researchers in the recent past. This is a major issue in developed countries. There has been some data about the existence of such child victims but the figures remain largely unreliable because many cases still go unreported. Sexual and psychological abuse is the most common maltreatment cases. Psychological maltreatment is obviously high because it touches on a range of other areas. 10% of maltreatment cases are sexually abused children. Many more children are affected but are not reported. Middle childhood is noted as the most vulnerable of sexually abused children (Life Span Development, n.d.).
Puberty marks the first signs of adolescence. The stage stretches to the point of sexual reproduction capacity. Although the stage is culturally constructed, biological changes are observed during this stage across cultures (Adolescence, n.d.).
Metacognition abilities are particularly recognizable during this stage. In includes thinking about what you think and what others think too. Metacognition is manifested better in adolescents than children of a younger age. It has also been noted that metacognition presents some challenges to adolescents when they initially develop this capacity. They find it hard to distinguish between their own thoughts and thoughts of others. This scenario leads to a situation called egocentrism (Adolescence, n.d.).
Although the emotional turbulence or instability that characterise adolescents is associated to biological reasons such as hormonal imbalances and changes, Child researchers believe that environmental and cognitive factors cause these emotions (those that the adolescents are exposed to); since these individuals have a newly developed capacity to read below the surface and infer or suspect more threats to their well-being. Scholars observe that multiple changes in the adolescent’s physical and mental environment are responsible for the emotional volatility. Adolescents encounter such changes as their puberty, their first romantic encounter and even changing school (Adolescence, n.d.).
Although, like children, adolescents remain within the family, such aspects as TV, the internet and other media, affect them more. This stage marks the emergence of some problems that might never have existed previously.
Although the family unit remains central in the adolescent’s world across cultures, it has been observed that there are remarkable relational changes that occur between the childhood stage and the onset of adolescence. In the U.S., the time spent together between the adolescents and family members is significantly reduced (Adolescence, n.d.).
Early and Middle Adulthood
Early adulthood marks the reproductive segment of one’s life. Middle adulthood signifies a time for achieving. In Eric Erikson’s view, this stage marks a crisis in one’s personality and development. There is either generativity or stagnation in domination.
People will either rise higher in their success path or stall. If such people have a strong success drive, they reach their climax at this point and retrieve the benefits of their work (Life Span Development, n.d.).
Most adults experience great fulfilment in parenting. People who marry in early adulthood become grandparents before they reach the end of the early adulthood stage. People who choose to marry only after they have completed their career dreams and feel stable to carry the baggage of parenthood become parents much later. This, often, happens in the early thirties (Life Span Development, n.d.).
Theory points out that early adulthood marks a point of isolation in one’s life while middle adulthood marks the onset of an empty nest.
As the individual progresses from education to career, there is a tendency for peer association and social relationships outside the family to wane. Consequently, even the most sociable person is likely to experience periods of social isolation. This is also called isolation crisis. The empty nest period in adult life is marked at the onset of Middle Adulthood and marital cycle. Most people find it hard to readjust to a paired family after long periods of larger company within the home. The reason is that the husband and wife grew apart during the child rearing stage within the home and even developed varying interests. Therefore, they have little common interest (Life Span Development, n.d.).
Early Adulthood is marked by Emotional upheavals while Middle adulthood marks a transition period
It is normal for people to experience emotional problems when they have to adjust to new environments and new lives. Generally, most people will have stabilized by mid thirties. This means that they are now more stable emotionally. If one continues to experience the emotional turmoil that they had in their adolescent years, it means that there has been an adjustment problem during the course of growing up. A clearly sign of these emotional issues is expressed in worries and anxiety (Life Span Development, n.d.).
Middle adulthood is related to the earlier stage in which a child transitions to adolescence and proceeds to adulthood. In middle adulthood, people transition to a time when adulthood concerns recede to the back and give room to behavioral and physical aspects to take charge. Men are known to slow down in their virility while women’s fertility is markedly reduced or stopped. Therefore, life must transition to a pair-centered relationship in the family for married individuals. The roles are no longer parenting responsibilities (Life Span Development, n.d.).
The Late Adulthood Stage
This stage marks the end of a human beings’ lifespan. They transition from usefulness back to dependence. People usually look back to review their lives and often regret. They tend to live in the current moment as much as they can.
In the early stages of life, the changes humans encounter are evolutional and progress to structural maturity and proper functioning. The latter stages tend to be involution. There is regression to the earlier stages. The changes are the typical and natural elements of the aging condition. Senescence is the period of slow mental and physical functioning decline and can be compensated. People may turn senescent in their fifties, early or late sixties. The rate of physical and mental decline determines the manifestation of this condition (Life Span Development, n.d.).
Relationships in Late Adulthood
The social convoy refers to the process of changes in the social networks of human beings. It is similar to a convoy of ships. There are ships traveling in the inner circle. These people are closest to you. They include your spouse, parents, brothers and sisters. The ships travelling in the outer circle represent the people who are important but not as important as the former. As the ships travel, some of them leave the convoy while others join in.
There is need to adapt positively as long as the convoy lives on and still makes voyages. This is the manner in which adult people with dysfunctional social networks of family and friends ensure that they proceed with their life’s journey.
There is a continuous process of recognition and replacement even as some losses take place along the way. The rate of these replacements is much slower though.
Unfortunately, some adult’s social convoys break down. These groups often face abuse and neglect by those who are supposed to be close to them (Life Span Development, n.d.).
Social Interaction and Social Support
Social support is still an important aspect of late adulthood life. It reduces stress and fosters better health among individuals. In fact, the odds of living longer are increased by social support. This is an element that explains why religious participation is also instrumental in sustaining life at this stage. Family members assist the elders. The first fallback is one’s spouse. If there is no such spouse, they get it from their children and siblings. In case such people are inaccessible, relatives and friends intervene.
Interestingly, many such elderly people do not like getting support from these sources unless they can give back something in return. They overvalue independence. When such assistance is overwhelming and the elderly cannot reciprocate or compensate adequately, distress sets in. This explains why adult children often present more help to their aging parents than is really appreciated or expected (Life Span Development, n.d.).
Late Adulthood Treatment Plan
Older patients suffering from insomnia, anxiety and depression prefer psychotherapeutic treatment and resist pharmaco-therapeutic procedures. There is evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in the treatment and handling of a range of psychiatric problems. This procedure should be availed when dealing with geriatric patients.
CBT uses the relationship between behaviour, emotion, and cognition. Perception is believed to be the cause and trigger of mood and behaviour. These thoughts manifest as a stream of thoughts generated automatically. The thoughts originate from a network of underlying beliefs. Patients experiencing psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, experience incessant automatic thoughts that lack validity, since they emanate from dysfunctional beliefs (Chand & Grossberg, 2013).
The process of therapy is meant to awaken the patient to the reality of the existence of their stream of thoughts when in depression and help them point out and adjust these dysfunctional thoughts. Functional changes manifest through the application of behavioural strategies. The approaches regulate emotion and aid the process of restructuring. If the therapist succeeds in modifying the underling dysfunctional beliefs, the patient is likely to enjoy a lasting recovery. Evidence strongly suggests that elderly people are good candidates for CBT. These patients cooperate better. They are more likely to apply the strategies suggested and have a great motivation for reading books for self-help. The procedure is short-term and cost-effective; thanks to its goal focused approach. Patients with insomnia problems are likely to recover after about 8 sessions. Those with depression or anxiety may require up to 20 sessions.
It is also notable that patient over 65 years have a basic Medicare cover, that incorporates psychotherapy and mental health care (Chand & Grossberg, 2013).
Lifespan development studies are focused on human development. Some developmentalists may be interested in the life spans of other species. It examines growth processes and change among humans. There is an effort to understand the common principles of development in the human race. Other researchers wish to understand how differences in culture, race and ethnicity influence development. Yet another group wishes to establish the uniqueness of individuals. All developmentalists view the process as a continuum in life. These specialists juxtapose the process of growth and stability in their studies. They seek to establish the specifics of the areas and periods that people manifest changes in development, and how and when their behavior shows consistency with their previous conduct (FLDNMC, 2010)..It is believed that the process occurs in all stages of life — from conception to death. They also point out that some behavior remains constant. They also note that no period has a monopoly over the process of development. There is a likelihood of either growing or regressing at any stage. The capacity for significant growth and development is always a possibility. Therefore, the field of Lifespan Development is broad. One may choose to major in an age range and topical area (FLDNMC, 2010).
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Baltes, P. B., Lindenberger, U., & Staudinger, U. M. (2007). Life Span Theory in Developmental Psychology. In Handbook of Child Psychology. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9780470147658.chpsy0111/abstract
Chand, S. (2013). How to Adapt CBT for Older Adults? Current Psychiatry, 12(3), 10-15.
Cooper, J., Masi, R., & Vick, J. (2009). Social-emotional Development in Early Childhood. National Center for Children in Poverty.
Cole, M. (1996). Interacting minds in a life span perspective: A cultural/historical approach to culture and cognitive development. In P. B. Baltes & U. M. Staudinger (Eds.), Interactive minds: Life span perspectives on the social foundation of cognition (pp. 59-87). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Damon, W. (1996). The lifelong transformation of moral goals through social influence. In P. B. Baltes & U. M. Staudinger (Eds.), Interactive minds: Life span perspectives on the social foundation of cognition (pp. 198-220). New York: Cambridge University Press.
D’Andrade, R. G. (1995). The Development of Cognitive Anthropology. Cambridge University Press
FLDNMC. (2010). An Introduction to Life Span Development. Pearson Highered.
Life Span Development. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.b-u.ac.in/sde_book/msc_life.pdf
Tomasello, M. (1999). The cultural origins of human cognition. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.
Valsiner, J., & Lawrence, J. A. (1997). Human development in culture across the life span. In J. W. Berry, P. R. Dasen, & T. S. Saraswathi (Eds.), Handbook of cross-cultural psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 69-106). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
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